HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH
Review by Ed Nguyen
John Cameron Mitchell, Andrea Martin, Michael Pitt, Miriam Shor
Director: John Cameron Mitchell
Video: 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen
Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital, DTS Surround Sound
Features: See Review
Studio: New Line Cinema
Length: 91 Minutes
Release Date: December 11, 2001
new century has been a kind one for the movie musical, which has been making a
spirited comeback on the silver screen. It
began in 2001 when one rather flamboyant musical received the lion's share of
the summertime press coverage. The
film was a whirlwind of color and movement, and critics showered accolades upon
it. Audiences were perhaps less
enthusiastic in their reaction to the film’s genre-defying though somewhat
out-of-control approach, but there was certainly no denying that it was quite
daring and visually creative. Come
Oscar time, the film received numerous nominations.
That film was Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin
Rouge. And it was hardly the best musical of the year.
Not by a long shot.
honor belonged completely to Hedwig and
the Angry Inch.
an off-Broadway production, Hedwig
received only a limited theatrical release with almost no media fanfare.
Yet it was clearly a labor of love for its creator and director John
Cameron Mitchell. He had originated
the character on-stage and reprised it again for this film.
His boundless energy and obvious enthusiasm are immediately evident from
the very start of the film, which is decidedly off-beat but always entertaining.
not even sure how to describe the plot. I
usually try to keep an open mind when watching a new movie, but to be honest, I
avoided this film for a long time because the story just seemed too
bizarre. The general plot, in a nutshell, chronicles the trials and
tribulation of Hansel, an East German Berliner. In the days prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, he is
captivated by an American soldier stationed in Berlin.
They wish to marry, and after the collapse of the Berlin Wall, Hansel
undergoes a botched sex-change operation to marry the soldier.
Off they go to America, but soon thereafter, they split.
Hansel, in the midst of an identity crisis, decides that his destiny lies
in his transformation into Hedwig, lead singer for a glam-rock band, the Angry
Inch. Together, they seek their
fortune in America's heartlands. On
the road to supposed fame, Hedwig develops a relationship with Tommy (Michael
Pitt from TV's Dawson’s Creek), the
son of a highly religious man. Tommy
later plagiarizes Hedwig’s tunes and uses them to propel himself to great
teeny-bopper fame. And thus, the
film commences late in the story with Hedwig scheming to reclaim his fame with
his band, the Angry Inch, while stalking Tommy either for a confrontation or for
a reconciliation of sorts. Got all
you just roll your eyes? I did too,
the plot left me in stunned disbelief too when I read about it, but on
celluloid, it works and works well. While
Moulin Rouge was a chaotic mess at
times, Hedwig is well-directed and
never confusing. The narrative is obviously not linear and jumps wildly between
past and present, first person and third person, yet always with ease and
narrative clarity. Always humorous,
but never corny, Hedwig is quite a
trip, somewhat like a superior combination of Rocky Horror and Pink
Floyd’s The Wall. That the
film remains focused, amusing, and constantly entertaining is a great tribute to
Mitchell, a first-time film director.
this talk, and I haven't even gotten to the true heart and soul of the film -
the music! The humorous story
serves as the framework for some of the most instantly infectious and addictive
rock tunes ever heard on film. There
have been rock operas in the past, but Hedwig
is the best. Period.
Imagine a hybrid of Saturday Night Fever with the theme to Fame, spiced with a heavy dose of KISS and Robert Palmer’s “Bad
Case of Lovin’ You” and you will have an idea of how good the music
is. The initial tune, "Tear Me
Down," plays during the opening credits, and it is practically an instant
guitar-rock classic from its first hook-heavy bars.
rock anthem, "The Origin of Love," is the best song and comes mid-way
through the film. The ONLY reason
it did not win the Best Original Song Oscar category in 2001 is that it comes
from the stage musical and is thus not “original”.
Ah well, so goes the world. Most
of the Hedwig songs are of such a high
caliber that they are practically all Oscar-worthy, which is quite a statement
for a film that had its origins on a seedy, off-Broadway hotel stage.
spite of its humble beginnings, Hedwig is
clearly an immensely enjoyable film. It
is only a matter of time before the film gains the wild cult status that its
stage cousin has enjoyed for many years now.
New Line, from their Platinum Series to their Infinifilm Series to their Lord
of the Rings standard bearer, makes the most consistently top-line DVDs on
the market. Period.
Hedwig, as part of their
Platinum Series, carries on this fine tradition quite admirably.
The colors are bold and bright, and the transfer is practically perfect
with no significant artifacts anywhere. I
really have nothing bad to say about the video at all.
awesome. I started watching this
DVD as an un-believer and by the end of the film, I was a wildly enthusiastic
convert. The film is infused with
incredible energy and totally rockin' songs.
Some of the songs have been shortened from their Broadway versions for
the film, but they lose none of their potency.
As a bonus, there are a few new tunes in the film, so viewers already
acquainted with the soundtrack will have more to enjoy.
that DTS soundtrack! WOW!
It simply needs to be heard to be believed.
It is the very definition of LOUD. The
bass is tremendous and will rock the house!
With these songs, you will be sorely tempted to crank up the volume,
neighbors or no neighbors!
I have nothing bad to say!
are some of the usual suspects - trailer, filmographies and some deleted scenes
which do not really amount to much. However,
the filmmaker commentary by Mitchell is quite nice and at times even humorous
favorite feature, though, is a jukebox option that lets you listen to any or all
of the songs outside of the film. You
can listen in DTS, too! Trust me,
once Hedwig’s tunes get into your
mind, you may find yourself using this function quite a lot.
All musicals should have this feature.
jukebox, however, is still not the best feature. The best feature is the ninety minute documentary, Whether
You Like it or Not: The Story of Hedwig, on the making of the stage musical
and the movie. It’s like getting
two movies for the price of one! The
documentary is funny, entertaining, and very personable.
As narrator and host, John Cameron Mitchell takes the viewer through his
constant struggles with nay-sayers to turn his vision into one of
the most successful and original musicals from New York City in ages.
We see the transformed, seedy hotel that becomes the stage for the
initial production of Hedwig.
We catch glimpses of some of the actors who have also portrayed Hedwig
(Ally Sheedy, for one!). We even
see some of the fanatic fans (many of whom have seen the stage musical dozens of
times). And of course, we see a lot of fascinating tidbits about the
creative process, too. It is a
superb DVD original documentary, one of the finest.
The only one in my experience that is better is Fearful Symmetry (from To Kill
a Mockingbird DVD), a documentary so incredible that it would be worth
buying the DVD just for it alone, even if the film weren't already a