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USA 2001
Directed by
John Cameron Mitchell
95 minutes
Rated R

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Hedwig And The Angry Inch

Synopsis: Hedwig (John Cameron Mitchell) was born a boy in East Germany when the Wall went up, After a botched sex change operation undertaken so that she could marry an American G.I.she tries to gain recognition as a rock singer. She has an affair with a young man, who draws inspiration from her and after she launches his career and he becomes a huge star. Hedwig sets out to get the recognition she deserves.

In a way the less one knows about the origins of this film the more engaging it is as it allows one to be caught up with the deliberately provocative play with conventions of every kind, filmic and non-filmic. So I'm not going to tell you but if you are interested the end credits explain much.

In broad terms Hedwig And The Angry Inch belongs in the "rock film" category. Somewhat reminiscent of a spoof rockumentary such as Hard Core Logo (1996), which follows the on-the-road-again exploits of a small-time punk band, in this instance we have a neo-glam Eastern Bloc combo touring a chain of down-market restaurants called "Bilgewater". As is usual the outcome is lots of cheap motel rooms and over-stretched egos struggling to keep the faith. Somewhat differently, however, in Hedwig, the music is as important a component as the story and it is excellent. Stephen Trask who wrote the music and performs in the band is clearly enamoured of Velvet Underground, Bowie of the Ziggy Stardust era and '70s glam rock bands like Mott the Hoople and The Alex Harvey Band. He is a skilled writer both musically and lyrically and well deserves 50% of the credit for the success of this film (he also co-wrote the film with director Mitchell).

For the most part the direction by John Cameron Mitchell (who is also outstanding in the lead, not that anyone else really gets a look-in) is impressively energetic, irreverent and inventive, mixing the narrative with musical numbers, flashbacks, stock footage and animated sequences. The film boasts an exuberant palette resulting from some excellent costume design that superbly complements the music. Unfortunately, somewhat like a '70s concept album, the film does tend to run out of steam as it progresses, coming finally to a rather lame resolution that may not be to the liking of a LGBT audience. Overall however, Hedwig And The Angry Inch is still a raucously energetic and wonderfully off-beat film. 




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