October 13, 2019

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The Goose is a marvel of prairie surrealism

Local filmmaker debuts with inventive, absurdist and unabashedly maximalist work

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/11/2018 (323 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It’s got hypnagogic mosquito coils, vibrating hooked rugs, quivering jellied salads, a cult gathering of snowbirds, a creepy ventriloquist dummy — is there any other kind? — a one-man band and a teleporting fax machine.

Mike Maryniuk, a made-in-Manitoba maestro of experimental animation and live-action hybrid forms, brings everything he’s got to his eye-popping debut feature and then some. Inventive, absurdist and unabashedly maximalist, The Goose is a marvel of prairie surrealism.

The goose in question is actually a person (Rob Crooks), an awkward young man with an epically bad haircut who doesn’t speak but whose mutism might be voluntary, according to a brief drop-in by a doctor (James Pinhead Miller) with no bedside manner whatsoever.

The Goose’s quest, then, is to find his voice, which could involve escaping his oppressive small-town surroundings, including the uncertain care of his guardian, a washed-up former boxer (Washboard Hank Fisher), and the regular trauma he suffers at the hands of two jerky videographers, played by Rob Vilar and Tim Roth (the Winnipeg one, not that British bloke).

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/11/2018 (323 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It’s got hypnagogic mosquito coils, vibrating hooked rugs, quivering jellied salads, a cult gathering of snowbirds, a creepy ventriloquist dummy — is there any other kind? — a one-man band and a teleporting fax machine.

Mike Maryniuk, a made-in-Manitoba maestro of experimental animation and live-action hybrid forms, brings everything he’s got to his eye-popping debut feature and then some. Inventive, absurdist and unabashedly maximalist, The Goose is a marvel of prairie surrealism.

The goose in question is actually a person (Rob Crooks), an awkward young man with an epically bad haircut who doesn’t speak but whose mutism might be voluntary, according to a brief drop-in by a doctor (James Pinhead Miller) with no bedside manner whatsoever.

The Goose’s quest, then, is to find his voice, which could involve escaping his oppressive small-town surroundings, including the uncertain care of his guardian, a washed-up former boxer (Washboard Hank Fisher), and the regular trauma he suffers at the hands of two jerky videographers, played by Rob Vilar and Tim Roth (the Winnipeg one, not that British bloke).

Photos by winnipeg film group</p><p>The Goose follows an awkward, mute young man with a bad haircut on a psychedelic journey to find his voice amid his oppressive small-town surroundings.</p></p>

Photos by winnipeg film group

The Goose follows an awkward, mute young man with a bad haircut on a psychedelic journey to find his voice amid his oppressive small-town surroundings.

Meanwhile, the Goose gets some support from a New-Agey fast food worker (Lee White) and an oddball travel agent (Al Simmons). In an inspired burst of retro-futurism, the travel agent claims to have built a machine that lets you fax yourself south ("No lineups, no hidden fees").

The Goose also bonds with a fellow sufferer at the hospital, a woman known as the Escape Artist (Bea Solsberg), who talks enough for the two of them.

"There are places where you can wear shorts in the winter," says the Escape Artist, with wide-eyed wonder, as if she’s talking about some mythical land.

She’s actually referring to Arizona, but in this quintessentially Manitoban dream of escape, that level of warmth seems almost fantastical. The Goose’s namesake birds are often pictured flying south for the winter, and at one point he joins a disco party/religious ceremony of snowbirds, where would-be travellers solemnly chant about factory-outlet stores and margarita drink specials and sun.

Amid all the hijinks, there are arcane riffs and references, from Buster Keaton to folk art to old NFB classics. The Goose’s singular look is undergirded with an absolute kitsch-a-thon of kooky prairie memorabilia and archaic technologies, from that Rube Goldberg fax machine setup to '80s arcade games.

Mike Maryniuk</p>

Mike Maryniuk

Maryniuk has so far made his name with short films like Cattle Call, Packing Up the Wagon: The Last Days of Wagon Wheel Lunch and Death by Popcorn. He has the kind of wired, weird visual technique that one might think works better in short, sharp doses, but his boundless creativity and cinematic energy expand nicely to fit his feature’s 72-minute running time.

He hasn’t defaulted to a conventional narrative — that’s not really his thing — but The Goose still manages to hold together, partly because of the brilliance and consistency of Maryniuk’s trippy visual style. He uses scratch animation, computer animation, stop-motion animation and all sorts of neat-o tricks to craft vertigo-inducing sequences that could be hallucinations, imaginary visions, Freudian fever dreams or just formalist freak-outs. One interlude seems to be a psychedelic disquisition on banana bread.

The film’s other unifying feature is a kind of deep and obsessive yearning. In the Goose’s existential predicament, there’s a deeply ambivalent love-hate, stay-go dynamic, a filmic form of that painfully honest affection for our weather and our land and our city that underlies a lot of great Winnipeg art, from the music of the Weakerthans to the movies of Guy Maddin to the photographs of Bryan Scott.

The Goose occasionally hovers knowingly and deliberately on the edge of too-muchness, sometimes nudging up close to a joshing parody of experimental film, but Maryniuk’s deadpan humour and sincere love for his art form always keep it from tipping over.

alison.gillmor@freepress.mb.ca

Alison Gillmor

Alison Gillmor
Writer

Studying at the University of Winnipeg and later Toronto’s York University, Alison Gillmor planned to become an art historian. She ended up catching the journalism bug when she started as visual arts reviewer at the Winnipeg Free Press in 1992.

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History

Updated on Saturday, November 24, 2018 at 7:52 AM CST: Photo, video added.

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