Tuesday, July 20, 2010

#33-Hedwig And The Angry Inch (2001)

Hedwig And The Angry Inch

Most of the films that are on my "Top Whatever" are films that I have seen years ago. This is not the case with Hedwig And The Angry Inch which I saw for the first time only about a month ago. It is based on an Off-Broadway musical written by and starring John Cameron Mitchell, who also writes, directs and stars here. The film is often compared to The Rocky Horror Picture Show for obvious reasons. A transexual main character, darkly humourous elements, and puck rock themes. It has even gotten to the point where midnight showings complete with shadow casts of the two films are shown back to back. I however, despite how much the midnight movie freak within me disagrees, can easily say that Hedwig And The Angry Inch far surpasses even the best elements of Rocky Horror.

The film is about a young boy named Hanzel (Ben Mayor-Goodwin) who is living in communist East Berlin right after the wall has gone up. Not going to school as a child, Hanzel has nothing to do but listen to American Forces Radio, where the great glam rockers of the eighties are constantly on display. David Bowie and Lou Reed being his all time favorites. By the time he has reached teenagehood, he cannot wait to get out of Berlin, and the opportunity presents itself in the form of Sgt. Luther Robinson (Maurice Dean Wint) whom falls in love with Hanzel, and Hanzel with him. The two plan to flee the country and escape then get married in America. This is impossible however because of complete cavity searches, so Hanzel's mother (Alberta Smith) gives her identity to Hanzel and gets him into a doctor to perform the operation. Unfourtanetly, the doctor cuts to short and leaves, now Hedwig (John Cameron Mitchell) with a "one inch mound of flesh". later in America, Sgt. Luther finds a new boy and leaves Hedwig on her own. To support herself she tries to become a glam rocker similair to her favorites in late 90's America, while falling in love with a strict Christain boy Tommy Speck (Michael Pitt).

Lets get this out of the way, the performance here by John Cameron Mitchell is simply fantastic. In this role he completely embodies the character of Hedwig so thouroughly it is uncanny. He was nominated for a Golden Globe for the performance and her surely deserves more recognition than that. He has a great voice that he uses to belt out some fun tunes, great comedic timing and inspiration, and a high bar of expansive dramatic set pieces that cannot be topped. His portrayal is fun, energetic and inventive, and even with wacky costumes and tons of make-up, he manages to bring out some truly deep emotion when the time is right.

The performances across the board are astonishing. Mitchell, Pitt, and Smith all perform admirably. One of Pitt's earliest performanes is a real treat to watch, since I've been enjoying his work ever since I discovered him in Funny Games. Another great, and key performance comes from Miriam Shor who plays the character of Yitzhak another character in drag, this time a woman as a man, and the back up singer in Hedwig's band, who play mostly in salad bars. There are very few other roles in the film, as the stage play was originally a one-man monolouge by whomever was playing Hedwig. The story was expanded here, and these characters being full fledge, and as such the main part of Hedwig is given the most screen time. So much screen time, there are only four supporting roles making five major roles total.
"The moutains streched up to the sky, sometimes higher"

The music in the film is awesome as well. The music was taken exactly from the play to the movie, and the songs written by Stephen Trask are infectious and addictive. They are less glam rock than say Bowie or Queen, but closer to the punk-rock hair bands of the same era. All of the band members have a great stage presence, as all the performances were done live. The songs make you want to get up and jump around, bang your head. In fact I bought the CD and have put some of the songs on my exercise playlist. When the songs are rockin', they rock, but like all great rock band's, Hedwig also has some medatative slow songs, that in all honestly make me feel connected to him. In the context of the story, and the character of Hedwig the final song: Midnight Radio is one of the greatest songs of all time, and is truly heartbreaking.

The story written my Mitchell is near percfection. It has characters we love, and side with, as well as root for and connect to. Hedwig is a truly inspirational creation and I hope there are people out there who look at this, and use it as inspiration to fufill their dreams. The screenplay is strong and unique, with flashbacks and story-tellings of an amazing ability. The direction by Mitchell proves he is more than just a pretty face for screen fame, but a great force to fight with in the directing world. In front of the camera, he is great, and behind the camera he is a genius. Mitchell might as well have redefined the medium with this film, and is someone that I am keeping a very close eye on.

The costumes and make-up are superb as well. Hedwig is a treansexual, and has to be created by make-up in that sense. But being a glam rocker he has all kinds of crazy make-up and costumes that make him a truly Bowie-an figure. Hedwig is to Hanzel, what Ziggy Stardust was to Bowie. Hedwig is sometimes a punk-rocker, a store clerk, a man, a woman, and even a bee-hive queen from '73 but what ultimatly comes out is his humanity.

Hedwig And The Angry Inch is one of the best, and one of my favorite films of all time. The inspirational story of being who you want to be, and dealing when you have to shows us that being human is not always a gift, but it is never a curse. During all of her turmoil and trouble she never gives up on her dream, and technically fufills it. One of the greatest creations in film history, potrayed by one of the best actors, and given the best platform by one of the best directors. Musically the film is a miracle, and the screenplay is phenomenal. A groundbreaking story that is humours as well as hurtful, giving us a true view of the world, whether we face the same challenges as Hedwig or not.

I Give Hedwig And The Angry Inch A:

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