Cinophile: Hedwig And The Angry Inch

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[column size=one_half position=first ]Time to put on some makeup and turn up the eight track for perhaps the greatest musical ever filmed. I was introduced to Hedwig and the Angry Inch from the least likely person. A close friend came up to me and said: “You have to watch this film!”, adding cautiously that it is a musical. This was a bit weird – when it comes to music, my friend was more reliable for a Cradle Of Filth sing-a-long than recommending a film about a drag queen and her band. Then again, he loves The Rocky Horror Picture Show, so maybe he knew a thing or two.

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 ]

Hedwig And The Angry Inch was based on a play created by Stephen Trask and John Cameron Mitchell, with Mitchell later directing and starring as the lead in the movie. The play was developed during the early Nineties in New York’s Drag Artist scene and initially used modified covers of popular songs, most drawing from the Glam Rock movement of the Seventies. Its music has been compared to the likes of David Bowie and John Lennon.
Hedwig And The Angry Inch was based on a play created by Stephen Trask and John Cameron Mitchell, with Mitchell later directing and starring as the lead in the movie. The play was developed during the early Nineties in New York’s Drag Artist scene and initially used modified covers of popular songs, most drawing from the Glam Rock movement of the Seventies. Its music has been compared to the likes of David Bowie and John Lennon.

 

The stage show has a big following and several famous names are associated with it. David Bowie helped produce the Los Angeles run of the show, while the most recent Broadway incarnation starred Neil Patrick Harris as Hedwick, just last month playing a song from the show at the Tony awards.
The stage show has a big following and several famous names are associated with it. David Bowie helped produce the Los Angeles run of the show, while the most recent Broadway incarnation starred Neil Patrick Harris as Hedwick, just last month playing a song from the show at the Tony awards.
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Hedwig’s main iconic wig may have been inspired by Blondie’s Debbie Harry. Harry performed in a club that was also staging the production and Mike Potter apparently took inspiration, but used toilet rolls to give the wig its iconic curls.
Hedwig’s main iconic wig may have been inspired by Blondie’s Debbie Harry. Harry performed in a club that was also staging the production and designer Mike Potter apparently took inspiration, but used toilet rolls to give the wig its iconic curls.

Cinophile is a weekly feature showcasing films that are strange, brilliant, bizarre and explains why we love the movies.

Last Updated: July 21, 2014

James

A total movie glutton, nothing is too bad or too obscure to watch, unless it's something like The Human Centipede. If you enjoyed that, there is something wrong with you. But bless you anyway - even video nasties need love...

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