As it turns out, his instincts couldn’t have been better: he may love his metal, but you can always sway him with a bit of Bowie or Zep or the Time Warp. Hedwig is a bit of all of that, and then some. It tells the tale of a flamboyant performer with a huge chip on her shoulder, starting with her childhood as a little boy in East Berlin, a botched sex change operation and the eventual lover who would steal her songs and become world famous.
It sounds a bit dramatic and certainly would have been. But the power of musicals is to make light of life’s worst moments, lifting the mood with the magic of song. Hedwig already shines as a movie – it is expertly made and throws more stylish attitude than a supernova of Beyonce concerts. Yet the music – both the songs and performances – is what renders Hedwig immortal.
Most musicals tend to stick to a style, like Grease’s slicked-back rock n’ roll or Hairspray’s homage to the doo-wop period. The most popular mold is probably Rodgers and Hammerstein, responsible for Sound Of Music and The King And I, a formula copied extensively by Disney, right up to Frozen.
Though it takes a lot of inspiration from Seventies glam rock, the very early theatre runs of Hedwig instead used covers with the lyrics altered. This morphed into a fantastic array of different original songs: it feels like someone stumbled onto missing masterpieces from David Bowie, Elton John and Lou Reed. Comparisons have been drawn to John Lennon’s later work and the songs have been covered by the likes of Meatloaf and Type O Negative.
But Hedwick is not just about music. It’s about a lot of things: life, love and how we all fit into it. As told by a transvestite in a movie with a wicked sense of humour and carrying a bag full of epic tunes. And they are certainly easier to sing along to than Cradle Of Filth…[/column] [column size=one_half position=last ]
Cinophile is a weekly feature showcasing films that are strange, brilliant, bizarre and explains why we love the movies.
Last Updated: July 21, 2014