Saturday, August 16, 2008

Guy Maddin interview

As linked below, Jim Ridley's interview with Guy Maddin in this week's Nashville Scene was a bit stunted due to print limitations. But we're glad to post here the full interview, from Billy Idol to If Day...proceed:

Did I read a story you told about some people in Winnipeg once using the legs of a frozen cow as a hockey goal?

The way we use our dead cows tells us so much about our culture.

Here in Nashville, we have an NHL franchise that has had a somewhat hard time catching on. Why should we get excited about hockey?

Nashville’s already so mythologically packed with music and Civil War lore and history and just its place in the honeycomb of great American mythology that I don’t know if it really needs hockey. Maybe people are just puzzled, or just need to get out, or maybe they buy tickets for the games but just don’t show up. I don’t have any great sociological for it. It’s a sport we [Canadians] can all identify with because we either played it ourselves or know someone that played it, or just grew up with it. It really goes back. It’s like when you’re watching a football game, there’s a whole grid of things going on at once involving nostalgia, and hope for the future, and civic pride, and intense rivalries, and vicarious achievement, and all that stuff. And all that stuff goes on with hockey the way it does with football for you. It must be more like roller derby for you, where a league starts up now and then and then goes away for a while and nobody really misses it. (laughs) But good luck with your franchise. I know you’ve got some comical ownership issues. Your team was really good a year ago, as I remember, and then they sort of fire-sold some good players.

From the film, I take it the loss of Winnipeg’s old hockey arena was a traumatic event.

Well, I got kind of mad that the city didn’t feel it as badly as I did. The morons in our city were happy to all throng to the new lousy arena. Our city isn’t really very wealthy, so they tore down not only a perfectly good arena but one that is packed with memories, and replaced it with one that is going to fall apart in 20 years. And put it in a place that isn’t as accessible. And as usual in these graft cases, made a couple of people rich and will ultimately not serve the community. So it kind of outrages me, but everyone else is just happy to go. We’re in sort of the honeymoon period of the arena, when people show up just to see the arena, so Engelbert Humperdinck and Billy Idol have been selling out to like 15,000 people, where they would have drawn 1,100 people at a smaller venue a couple of years ago. It’s got us all in kind of a disgusting drunk-on-novelty.

How did your fellow Manitobans react to the movie?

I was a bit shocked. I’m sure the reaction isn’t over, but I thought they’d be very uncomfortable and annoyed—this is Winnipeg, the town that sort of booed Neil Young out of the country. (laughs) And there’s a guy who’s pretty good. But they weren’t having him. So I expected the same sort of treatment; I almost wanted it. But it didn’t happen the opening night where the film played. It got a really nice response; my mom herself, up in the Abraham Lincoln loge, got a two-or-three-minute standing ovation and glowed like a bioluminescent animal up in their spotlight. Everything seemed fine. But I think what might happen now if I know my Winnipeggers, and I do, is they’ll slowly start (or maybe not-so-slowly start) resenting me and hating me. Not for making the film, but for the film getting out there and doing what I wanted it to do.

I have to ask what your mom thought of the movie.

The first words out of her mouth afterward were, ‘It’s a strange movie, but I liked it.’ I thought she might be too upset by it, frankly. I thought she might be upset by the uncanny resemblance of the actor [who plays her] late son.

What’s the thing in the movie that most people think you made up, when in fact it’s real?

If Day. You can look it up. And I like that story. If you think of it, it’s very analogous to what Orson Welles did with War of the Worlds, fake invasion—in his case for entertainment, in our case for…war-bond frightening. The Orson Welles broadcast, and all its apparent panic that it produced, became part of American legend, where If Day was completely forgotten. My parents don’t even remember it. Nobody told me about it. It’s just the way Canadians behave as compared to Americans—as compared to the way any other country would behave, as a matter of fact. In response to the magnificent self-mythologizing powerhouse that is America right immediately to our south, we insist on presenting all of our historical figures in life-size terms, and there’s no more surefire way of consigning something to oblivion than presenting it life-size. (laughs)

You’ve taken care of that.

That was my whole mandate with this thing—to treat it the way an American would. (laughs) Actually, If Day, I found out about it from an American, and the only newsreel footage of it was taken by the Fox Newsreel Company.

I would think that restaging your childhood would be emotionally demanding.

I felt really guilty at times. I felt like I was committing a crime of some sort. And then at other times I felt myself overcome by tears—and I realized what they were. They weren’t tears triggered by any mysterious and long-buried emotion; they were just tears of pride. I realized I was really proud of how I’d managed to pull this off. My memories were being filmed! It was almost like just pointing a camera at my temple and collecting memories out there. That was kind of a sobering moment—I realized I wasn’t being overcome with emotion, I was just being hubristic.

In a way, this seems like a terminal movie—like you’ve followed your childhood mythology as far as it will go.

I think I have to move on now. Which leaves me sad, because I’m not sure I nailed it. At least for 10 or 15 years, I don’t think I can go back to it. And then I’ve messed up all the evidence, right? From now on I’ll be remembering the movie version of my childhood rather than my real childhood.

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