Hedwig and the Angry Inch

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH

6/10

USA 2001
director : John Cameron Mitchell
script : Mitchell (adapted from play – text by Mitchell, music, lyrics by Stephen Trask)
producers include : Christine Vachon, Michael De Luca
cinematography : Frank DeMarco
editing : Andrew Marcus
music : Stephen Trask
lead actors : John Cameron Mitchell, Miriam Shor, Andrea Martin, Michael Pitt
95 minutes

Film version of the long-running off-Broadway musical that’s become an underground NewYork legend – and what a very in-your-face bit of Manhattan camp it is, following would-be transexual Hansel/Hedwig (Mitchell) from his birth in East Berlin, through his botched sex-change operation (leaving him with the ‘angry inch’ of the title) to his new life as an ‘internationally ignored’ singer in the US. It’s Mitchell’s movie all the way down the line, and luckily he’s got definite screen presence, belting out the nine (mostly very strong) songs in scarlet lipstick and Farrah Fawcett frightwig.

While Hedwig is commendably different, even from the usual run of American indie fare, it never quite manages to cross over from kitsch spectacle to work as a coherent movie in its own right. As a director, Mitchell opts for a rough-edged, semi-documentary feel, and this only really pays off during the musical cabaret numbers, most of them delivered to an amusingly unappreciative audience of restaurant diners.

Elsewhere, there’s an oddly retro, 1970s feel to proceedings (the basic trajectory is Fassbinder > Warhol > Sam Shepard) especially during the final scenes in which Hedwig is somehow ‘reborn’ yet again, fusing his consciousness with that of his protg Tommy Gnosis. Gnosis is a pudgily sweaty cousin of Ewan McGregor’s Curt Wild in Velvet Goldmine and, equally unconvincing as a rock star. It’s a shame to see a movie with such verve and energy fizzling out into a puddle of confusing self-indulgence.

19th June, 2001

by Neil Young
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