View Date: February 1st, 2002


John Cameron Mitchell Hedwig
Michael Pitt Tommy Gnosis
Miriam Shor Yitzhak
Stephen Trask Skszp
Theodore Liscinski Jacek
Rob Campbell Krzysztof
Michael Aranov Schlatko
Andrea Martin Phyllis Stein
Ben Mayer-Goodman Hansel (6 Years Old)
Alberta Watson Hansel's Mom

Directed by:
John Cameron Mitchell 

Written by
John Cameron Mitchell (play) 
Stephen Trask
(play music & lyrics) 
John Cameron Mitchell (screenplay)

Related Viewings:
Velvet Goldmine (1998)
Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)
Pink Floyd The Wall (1982)

Rocky Horror Picture Show, The (1975)

Official Site:

Also see my reviews at:


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Hedwig and The Angry Inch

Hedwig and the Angry Inch is, amongst its many inspirations, philosophies and such, a personification of the credo that looks can be deceiving.  The preview for this film, in my opinion, was one of the worst that I had ever seen.  It painted the film as the story of a struggling transsexual musician, which seemed to be mostly comedic in its portrayal.  But it is so much more.   When you first see Hedwig, the person, you may see a male, pretending to be a female, obsessing over a young rock star, and casting blame on his family, and the loved ones in his life.  But there is so much more.  The film is a strong, lyrical message about the search for identity that everyone goes through in his or her lives.  With not so subtle similarities to Rocky Horror Picture Show, Adventures of Priscilla Queen of The Desert, and most notably, the underrated classic Pink Floyd: The Wall, Hedwig becomes socially relevant film, whose undertones will reach inside each and every viewer, and strike chords as glaring and noticeable as Hedwig’s blonde mane.  By the end, you will not only understand, empathize, and sympathize with Hedwig, but you may even discover some things about yourself from the film’s life philosophies on finding yourself, and not being afraid to be that person.

Hedwig is the greatest unknown cross dressing musician that you would never have heard of.  She spends her evenings playing small restaurants and locales, shadowing the tour of a currently famous rock star, Tommy Gnosis, whom we begin to suspect, has a connection to Hedwig (via song similarities and the quietly venomous reaction to the mention of his name).  Her band, The Angry Inch, is a play on a piece of Hedwig’s tortured past that is slowly, but masterfully unraveled for us, through the progressions of songs and tours of a chain of restaurants known as Bilgewaters.  From the sorrow filled tones of Origin of Love, showing the continual search for identity that she carries consistently through the story, to the hard driving Angry Inch, which tells of the botched sex change operation that leaves a minor protrusion of manhood, the songs tell the story as the story tells itself, and we become a part of the unveiling and discovery of Hedwig’s painful journey. Hedwig was born as Hansel, in the year of the erection of the Berlin Wall, 1961;a fitting bit of both irony (to the emotional wall that she has built up) and tribute (to Roger Waters 1979 masterpiece) He was the son of a die-hard Hitler follower and an American G.I., and grew up in an apartment so small, he was forced to play in the oven, and learned to appreciate the American mastery of Anne Murray, Debby Boone, and the glam rock icons of the mid 70s. The journey continues through the love affair, which brought him/her to the predicament of the sex change operation, through abandonment in a small Kansas trailer park, to where she is today, the telling of the story, revelatory, yet progressive and intriguing, is artful biographical and lyrical storytelling in its truest form. I love stories that concurrently tell us things about the characters, while forging ahead through a story that may seem a bit repetitive and tedious, but also seems very representative of the days in Hedwig’s life.  Mitchell’s screenplay, brilliantly littered with social commentary and emulations of self-discovery and search for identity and placement, is balanced with the aforementioned soundtrack with near choral perfection. Both humorous, and telling, these examples show the painful, yet disturbingly humorous trek, the consequences of which, Hedwig must live and deal with daily.

I was kicked out of university for giving a dissertation on German philosophers influence on Western music, called U Kant Always Get What you Want

6 inches forward, 5 inches back (describing the botched attempt to conform to a lovers wishes)

To walk away, you’ve got to leave something behind”  
“To be free one must, one must give up a part of himself” (both used to justify said operation)

I sat in stunned amazement and appreciation at Mitchell’s words, and felt every bit of Hedwig’s predicament, which she never allowed to prevent her from achieving dreams, yet seeking more; a true representation of the glam rock movement, its soldiers and sadly, its casualties. 

This is definitely that could easily fit in, but is also very much inspired by, the glam-rock movement of the 70s, led by David Bowie, the New York Dolls, and the Velvet Underground to name just a few.  It has the spirit and energy of the performers, but also the uninhibited brutal honesty and emotion that befell, and sometimes destroyed, its participants.  Hedwig, the story, began as a Broadway play, and translated well from stage to screen, it seems.  Each of the songs has a place and purpose, instead of just being wedged in to ensure placement on a soundtrack.  It is a movie and a sound with a purpose and a goal; you may not like Hedwig, for the choices, for the lifestyle, or for who she is, but you are damn well going to understand how this complex person came to be, and what she is made of, figuratively and literally. 

The movie is carried by the soul-baring performance of the story’s creator, writer and director, German born John Cameron Mitchell, who definitely deserves mention amongst the great performances of 2001.  The stodgy Academy may shy away from the movies subject matter and initial appearance, but this would be a grievous oversight over one of the most daring, emotional, and honest performances of the year.  Adding to irony of the film, is Ithzak, Hedwig's lover, played a mustachioed Miriam Shor, yet further commentary on the films gender bending method of delivery, but never hammered in, because the focus is meant to be on who the characters are on the inside.  The rest of the cast may seem unfamiliar, save SCTV alumnus Andrea Martin, changing gears to play Hedwig’s faithful enthusiastic manager. The remainder of the cast, made up of virtual unknowns, including Michael Pitt (no relation to Brad I do not believe) as Gnosis, become the passing chords and notes, in the sad, triumphant, but impossible not to watch and listen to, story of an international unknown.

Ultimately, Hedwig and The Angry Inch, is an instant modern classic, a journey of self discovery clad in powder blue irony and platinum blonde decadence.  There are two sides to every person, and the movie shows one person's divided world, and the attempt to unify, while finding themselves.  Hedwig's world is a world divided.  Born in the year the Berlin was erected, half-German, half American, half man, half woman, dumped by her creator on the day of the Wall's destruction, the movie is filled with underlying messages and social commentary that become amazing revelatory and wise upon further reflection on the film.  I think this film works, because if you look at it closely enough, we can all see a little bit of our selves in Hedwig.  Forget the homosexual, transsexual phobias, because those are irrellevant to the film's overall message.   We all, whether we admit or not, seek to find our place, our purpose, in this crazy, confusing, ungiving, seemingly uncaring world.  Hedwig appears to stroll through life with a confidence, and a voice and eyes that seem to reflect a deeper conflict.  She could be a representation of anyone, who has ever questioned and wondered why they are who they are, and how they came to be that way.  Mitchell’s cinematic gem may touch some chords that make some uneasy or uncomfortable, but I ask you to look past the make-up, the cross dressing, the homosexual undertones, and see the true messages about life that this film has to offer. If the Academy can see past these, then the screenplay, Mitchell's performance, and any It may make you question, rethink, or even modify your life; it may muddle the clear, and clarify the muddled, but if you let it, may make you understand more about yourself, and those who you may not normally give a passing glance to on the street.  Few films have done this, with unexpected depth and honesty as this one does.  First appearances may make you think one thing, but looking closer, will reveal more than most care to see, but definitely should.  Ironically, that credo applies to this film as well.  Meet Hedwig, and find yourself in her words, in her story, and in the emotions that her story brings out in you. ($$$$ out of $$$$$)

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