Monday, August 1, 2011

#360. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)

Directed By: John Cameron Mitchell

Starring: John Cameron Mitchell, Michael Pitt, Miriam Shor

Tag line: "An anatomically incorrect rock odyssey"

Trivia:  The original stage version played Off-Broadway at the Jane Street Theatre for over two years.

The brainchild of writer/director/star John Cameron Mitchell, Hedwig and the Angry Inch relates the strange story of Hedwig (played by Mitchell), a female rock star who was, at one time, a boy named Hansel, living in Communist East Berlin. 

Life for Hansel changed the moment he met an American soldier (Maurice Dean Wint), who convinced him to undergo a sex change operation so that they could be married. But the operation was botched, leaving Hansel with a new name, Hedwig, but no true sexual identity. Hedwig did marry her soldier, but wedded bliss didn't last for very long, leaving her alone in America and forced to accept babysitting jobs to scrape by. 

Through it all, dreams of becoming a rock star were never far from Hedwig's thoughts, and her big chance finally arrived when she met Tommy (Michael Pitt), himself a fledgling musician. Hedwig taught Tommy everything she knew about music, and in the process, the two fell in love. 

Alas, Tommy couldn't deal with Hedwig’s unusual sexuality, so he abandoned her. What's worse, he stole the songs they had written together, and before long, was performing them to packed arenas, a full-fledged rock superstar! 

As a means of revenge for stomping on her heart and stabbing her in the back, Hedwig makes it her goal in life to expose Tommy as a fraud, forming her own band (made up entirely of illegal immigrants) and, with the help of her manager, Phyllis (Andrea Martin), following Tommy's tour around the country, all the while performing for the inhospitable crowds who frequent the family-style restaurants that book her act. 

Granted, this is a strange synopsis, yet despite its unusual nature, Hedwig and the Angry Inch possesses a spirit and vitality that makes it all seem perfectly normal. 

I was drawn into this story of rags to...well, more rags, yet what I loved most about the film was the music. Every song in this movie has the potential to become a camp classic. My personal favorite is The Origin of Love, which tells a fascinating, life-affirming tale of mythical gods, the splintering of humanity, and the ultimate creation of love. 

Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a wild, extravagant film that thumbs its nose at traditional ideologies as they pertain to love, sex, masculinity, and even rock music. It shocks as it threatens convention, so much so that we're initially of the same mindset as the poor, unsuspecting patrons of the various family restaurants where the Angry Inch performs, who seem unwilling to accept such an eccentric lead singer. Yet Hedwig and the Angry Inch is infused with a fresh energy, and the part of Hedwig is played with such heart by John Cameron Mitchell that the film slowly breaks down any inhibitions its audience might have. 

With wry humor, a bit of pathos, and some catchy tunes, Hedwig and the Angry Inch will blow you away.


Klaus said...

Hedwig is my favorite movie musical - in large part, not surprisingly, because of the music. But there is a lot more to this movie, including dark comedy and some beautiful animation to the Origin of Love - easily the best of the songs.

I know folks who can't stand this movie (my sister for one). I think there are two camps here: those who love it, and those hate it.

DVD Infatuation said...

Klaus: It certainly is a divisive film, and one that a good many people can't stand, but I'm with you...I love it!

THE ORIGIN OF LOVE is my favorite song as well, and the animation that accompanies it is very good.

Thanks for stopping by!

Fou Gallois said...

I just watched this film, and at the beginning i feared that it might be an overlong music video. I am so glad i stuck with it though... the songs began to take on a deep, melancholic feel, and i started to really care about the characters. It's quite an emotional rollercoaster ride, though the end left me a bit confused. It has to be noted that everyone puts in amazingly rich performances in this film, and Miriam Shor's role really blew me away!

DVD Infatuation said...

@Fou Gallois: Thanks for stopping by, and for the comment!

Yeah, the characters in HEDWIG are, as you say, very rich, and you definitely become invested in them as the film progresses.

And yes, Miriam Shor was tremendous!