The work of Candian filmmaker Guy Maddin falls squarely into love-it or hate-it territory, although "hate-it" might be too strong; "find it humourlessly indulgent" is probably better. Anyway, I love it, and I'm not going to try to mount a defense of the director, because I think so much of what makes his films work or not work is simply a matter of what wavelength the viewer is on. They're actually very easy to "get", but "liking" and "getting" aren't the same thing, no not the same at all.

Like Ozu, Maddin is primarily noted for the fact that all of his films seem quite a lot like all of his other films; unlike Ozu, whose shtick was one of arch minimalism, Maddin's films are unfettered naval-gazing and indulgent pastiche - his films are all made to look like breathless melodramas that might have been produced in Manitoba in the '20s or '30s, tossed in a closet on account of being too profane, and rediscovered in a terribly battered condition 80 years later. Scratches and missing frames and muddy audio, with terrifically exaggerated intertitles and gorgeous, noir-ish, Expressionistic compositions, and plots that either make perfect sense or fall apart completely based primarily on whether you're in a good mood when you're watching.

Maddin's latest, the "docu-fantasia" My Winnipeg, isn't probably going to win him any new converts, though for those of us in the director's fan club already, it's probably his best work yet: crammed full of ideas, yet almost completely accessible on the surface, its his easiest, funniest and most watchable film that I've seen. Produced at the behest of the Manitoba film board, who wanted their native madman-poet to create a study of his hometown, My Winnipeg is a love-letter, an indictment, a study of the blurring effects of nostalgia, a family drama, and a movie about how hard it is for filmmakers to be honest about themselves on film: Maddin's own , only with weirder imagery.

The film's throughline is that it is Maddin's attempt to film his way out of Winnipeg, a city he despises but has never been able to leave. As he captures the experiences of his memories on celluloid, he hopes that he can exorcise himself, and eventually take a one-way train out of town - a train that we see the drowsy Maddin riding on throughout the film (played by Darcy Fehr, though the film's narration is provided by the director himself). This necessitates that he rent his boyhood home and hire actors to play his siblings, but his mother, herself the star of Winnipeg's only native TV drama, the long-running Ledge Man - every day, a sensitive man misunderstands something and tries to jump off a ledge, but his mother always talks him down - agrees to play herself (of course, Maddin's mother isn't played by Maddin's mother, but by Ann Savage, a B-movie noir heroine of the 40s and 50s making her first film in over 20 years). Maddin dramatises the events of his past life, and gathers together stock footage of a century of Winnipeg history (how much of the stock footage was created for the movie is hard to tell, but it's easiest to assume that all of it was).

I can only imagine what the Manitoba film board expected, or if they were happy with the results; but to call My Winnipeg a documentary about the city - and indeed, it was produced for Canada's Documentary Channel - is probably wrong. There's simply no determining what parts of the film are made up completely, what parts of the film are the god's-honest truth, and what is a blend of the two. But asking that question completely misses the point of the film, which even its title makes clear: this is a film about Guy Maddin's Winnipeg, and nobody else's, and if Maddin's Winnipeg has ten times the sleepwalking rate of any other city in the world, or if in the '20s lovers used to tryst on frozen horse heads poking out of the icy river, I am compelled to accept that. Lest we forget, the whole movie is the result of barely being able to stay awake on the train out of town, while having your brain messed-up by the electromagnetic field produced by the forking of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, and the underground rivers running in tandem with those rivers - of course you'd be sleepy!

But the point stands, that we've all had dreams of familiar places bent into something strange and hardly recognisable - but during the dream itself, it all seems quite normal and prosaic. My Winnipeg isn't meant to be Maddin's dream, more like Maddin's dream diary, a version of his hometown that only he knows, a version that combines real-life outrages like the destruction of the city's historic architecture with half-remembered pseudo-facts and surreal fabrications.

And as such, the film is the most autobiographical film produced by a director never afraid of autobiography; it is the documentary of his imagination about the city he's known for his entire life. Frankly, that's a lot more interesting than any old documentary about the actual Winnipeg could ever be; while the film tells me nothing about a Canadian city that I'll probably never visit, it reminded me a great deal of my own childhood home, and the half-recalled fancies that I used to dream up about it. This is the sort of thing that happens when you substitute honesty for facts.