CRITIPEG: The Goose

Opens Nov. 24 at Cinematheque

In January 2018, Winnipeg-based filmmaker Mike Maryniuk’s first-ever feature-length film  premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. It had its North American premiere last month at the Festival du nouveau cinéma in Montreal.

And now, The Goose is finally flying home to Winnipeg.

A young man living somewhere near the country’s longitudinal centre is cursed with the voice of a Canada goose. Quirky, charming, and a little dark, The Goose is soaked in rural Manitoba camp and sweetened with a spoonful of surrealist flare.

Underneath it all, it’s also a beautifully crafted, cult-coloured love letter to Maryniuk’s Manitoba.

While images (and sounds) of Canada geese punctuate the film, a series of Manitoba-specific sub-themes keeps it tied to the province.

Setting the tone with a hypnotically spinning mosquito coil – lit like ritual incense – Maryniuk pays homage to Manitoba’s unofficial provincial bird. The Mosquito monument in Komarno – a town just north of Winnipeg whose name is literally the Ukrainian word for “lots of mosquitos” – is featured. Image wizard Leslie Supnet built a brilliant virtual effigy: a black and green screen mosquito-swatting video game that would have been a hit with Manitoba youth in the late ’70s.

A snowbird bacchanal full of #manitobafamous faces – including (but definitely not limited to) local mayoral candidate Ed Ackerman, Ghost Twin’s Karen Asmundson and Cinematheque’s own senior programmer Dave Barber – presages their mass-migration to Arizona.

The Skinners Wet ’n Wild waterpark in Lockport, demolished about a year ago, also makes an archival appearance.

In a cast of caricatures, Rob Crook’s speechless lead performance is perfectly strange, and there is no weak link among the supporting characters or chorus.

Legendary Manitoba children’s entertainer Al Simmons nails it as a warm-hearted and plaid-donned Doc Brown of Manitoba. Bea Solsberg serves rebel-hearted charisma, while Rob Vilar and Tim Roth (no, not the Tim Roth) shine as the dirty Geese Wrastlers bent on The Goose’s humiliation.

Through his career, Maryniuk’s highly stylized self-taught aesthetic has been full of echoes of extended techniques from mid-century experimental Canadiana. The Goose is no exception.

His signature hand-processed sequences and stop-motion animations full of arts and crafts charm are dolloped like psychedelic Cool Whip through the film. Designer Gwen Trutnau matches Maryniuk’s stylistic tang, injecting prairie thrift-chic into the film’s flat and gritty landscape.

The sonic palate is as intensely variegated as its imagery. The underscoring vacillates between a delicious narrative of abstractly representative sounds and a grungy electric guitar layered with crackly drums. Within the soundtrack, there’s a splash of folk-country, a dash of geriatric synth-pop and sprinkle of Washboard Hank’s tinny one-man band.

The Goose is a (mostly) feel-good tale of a lost soul searching for an answer. Where there is trial, there is encouragement. Where there is hopelessness, resolve. Though it may be a sentimental premise, Maryniuk and his team have sculpted a masterwork of Manitoba cinema.

Published in Volume 73, Number 11 of The Uniter (November 22, 2018)

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