John Cameron Mitchell, Michael Pitt
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
John Cameron Mitchell
John Cameron Mitchell's "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" started off on Broadway before Mitchell brought the musical to life on the big screen in this incredibly unique but captivating story of a transsexual punk rock girl from East Berlin who is touring the US, telling her story and attempting to follow an ex-boyfriend who stole her songs.
Yes, that's right. I said "transsexual punk rock girl." I'm putting that out there up front, because we know darn well that description alone will significantly reduce the film's potential audience. If you are offended by the idea of transsexuals, gay lifestyles, cross-dressing, punk rock or, God forbid, music itself then 'Hedwing and the Angry Inch" is not for you. If you are offended by penis talk, references to a penis, or even just a small penis then, well, this film is also not for you. All others may continue to read on.
Hedwig, born Hansel, has her surgery botched and is left with an "inch." In the meantime, the American soldier for whom she had the surgery rejects her anyway. Between all of this and the stealing of her music, Hedwig becomes, well ummm. Angry.
Mitchell portrays Hedwig, along with directing and writing the film. Mitchell's "Hedwig" is at once sympathetic yet repulsive, angry yet tender and funny yet tragic. Mitchell's performance is full of energy and fire and passion, but it is clear that Mitchell has truly lived inside this character, first on the written page, then on the Broadway stage, and, finally, here onscreen.
Likewise, as Tommy Gnosis, the one who has betrayed Hedwig, Michael Pitt offers yet another stunning performance. In many ways, Pitt's choices remind me of Johnny Depp's early work. In many ways, Pitt is even more of a risk-taker than Depp in his role selection. In the past couple years alone, he has completed Bertolucci's "The Dreamers," Van Sant's "Last Days" and Shyamalan's "The Village."
Tommy is now playing stadiums, while Hedwig is stuck play small bars/pubs in settings where you can literally hear the collective gasp when she is first seen. Hedwig is a glam-rocker with a spiritual and intellectual center, and the music of "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" is filled with Aristotelian lyrics and her own spiritual truths.
Beyond being one of the only recent films to qualify as a "rock musical," "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" is one of the best because it treats its subjects with respect and, therein, avoiding the pitfalls of turning into a campy, funny good time. Instead, we are left with a deeply rich, incredibly authentic musical that will offend many but mesmerize the the rest. This critic, for one, was mesmerized.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic