[Last Film I Watched] Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)

Hedwig and the Angry Inch poster

Title: Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Year: 2001
Country: USA
Language: English, German
Genre: Music, Comedy, Drama
Director: John Cameron Mitchell
Stephen Trask
John Cameron Mitchell
Music: Stephen Trask
Cinematography: Frank G. DeMarco
John Cameron Mitchell
Miriam Shor
Michael Pitt
Andrea Martin
Maurice Dean Wint
Rob Campbell
Michael Aronov
Alberta Watson
Sook-Yin Lee
Karen Hines
Rosie O’Donnell
Rating: 7.1/10

Hedwig and the Angry Inch 2001

Started as an off-Broadway rock musical, HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH has exerted itself to be a cultural phenomenon, a trailblazer fighting for the recognition of LGBT minorities, and its film adaption comes in 2001, 15 years ago, directed, written and starred by John Cameron Mitchell, the fountainhead of the story and musical, is it on its way to become a latter-day THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) with its ever-growing cult followers? Chances are roseate.

On the surface the film is comprised of a concatenation of Hedwig (Mitchell) and his bands’ live performances in different places, intersected with flashbacks of Hedwig’s past from Eastern Germany to Junction City, Kansas, the most startling one is his botched sex-change operation which left her the angry inch, a glaring aide-memoire of her bio-nature and the hell she has been undergone, also a testing ground to sift out those who cannot completely accept who she is, including Tom Speck (Pitt), a scare-easy greenhorn, whom Hedwig gets intimate with, but soon he would rip off her music for his own benefit.

Among all the raucous numbers in their repertoire, TEAR ME DOWN is a stunning gambit, SUGAR DADDY goes deliciously risqué and provocative, ANGRY INCH is self-revealing and poignant, but, the true knockout is no doubt THE ORIGIN OF LOVE, sagacious for its philosophical kernel inspired from Plato’s SYMPOSIUM, enthralling for the befitting animation sequences and maximally manifests Hedwig and the Angry Inch’s Glam Rock appeal and their full-fledged glitz. The following internecine schism between Hedwig and her band members, namely, with Yitzhak (Shor, audaciously disguising herself as a man), is the typical eruption of her prima donna vagaries, discloses a more sinister side of Hedwig’s personae.

The film sends viewers a mixed message in the final curtain call, where Hedwig performs in her male form, without those gaudy headgear and fake boobs, leaves his mantle to Yitzhak, then in a dreamlike scenery, he reunites with Tom, bothnaked above the waist, teary-eyed. Be a woman if you want Hedwig, don’t cringe, you are finally getting your toehold in the freedom land where one can be whoever he or she wants to be! Nevertheless, the coda seems to telegraph Hedwig’s acquiescence of her biological identity, is she finally giving up the fight and finding peace with herself? Hardly so, in reality, it is a lifelong crusade ahead, that’s rather in the wrong side of lane if the film and the story aim to be an affirming piece of art to endorse diversity and equality.

Last but not the least, a salvo of shout-outs to John Cameron Mitchell, a daredevil triple-threat who endeavours to bring his labour-of-love into fruition and leaves a glamorous mark in the soil of US queer cinema.

Oscar 2001 Hedwig and the Angry Inch


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