I did something I've never done before. I've been an avid (rabid?) movie fan since I was too young to remember. Even today it's a rare day that I don't watch at least 2 movies, more on weekends. But I have never, (my inner drama queen insists I repeat this for emphasis), never watched a movie and immediately turned around and watched it again from the beginning, all in one sitting.
But Hedwig and the Angry Inch caught me totally offguard. It was not even close to what I'd expected. I rented it because of the rave revues and the huge fanbase (called Hed-heads) for it's off-broadway production. I figure any movie advertised as the next Rocky Horror has to have something going for it. Plus I hated Moulin Rouge and really needed affirmation that the musical wasn't dead.
Towards the beginning of the movie we get a charming retelling of Plato's myth of how there used to be 3 types of humans on earth, each with 4 legs and arms, 2 faces, etc. Some looked like a man and a woman all rolled up together, others like two men or two women. They were so happy the gods became jealous and split them in two, moving the scar around to our bellies so we would always remember. And now our search for love is really our search for our other splitapart half.
This search for the other half is the theme of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Of course, we all know how hard it is to find our soulmate, but what if you're the victim of a botched sex-change operation in East Berlin before the wall comes down? Where/who/what is your other half? And if you're less than whole, are they more than half?
The theme of split halves (people, cities, families) is repeated throughout the movie, in plot, direction, production design, even in the credits. That, plus the fact that it's a rock musical, reminded me a great deal of Pink Floyd's the Wall, with it's hammer and wall themes.
Oh yes, the music. Quite frankly, it is wonderful. Written and performed by many veterans of the glam and punk rock scene, it's delivered in many genres, and actually serves as exposition for the plot in many cases. And, as in the Wall, animated segments frequently accompany the music. As does a follow-the-bouncing-ball singalong and a Tommy-esque showdown and revelation. I watched this three days ago and I still catch myself humming a few lines.
The live version played off-broadway for 4 years, and is still touring the world. It was single-handedly responsible for reinvigorating a dying neighborhood in New York, and the theater they specially built for it is still successful today, even though Hedwig is no longer performed there.
All the acting parts are pitch-perfect, honed to this perfection by their long run in New York. John Cameron Mitchell makes his directing debut here, but is also the writer and stars as Hedwig. The direction is marvelous, with scenes that will break your heart, roll with laughter, or simply issue a silent "cool!".
Mitchell is excellent, and has many touching scenes, but the most poignant scenes in the movie belong to Miriam Shor, playing his lover (yes, a woman dressed as a man is in love with a man playing a man dressed as a woman). Tangent: Mitchell in drag looks so much like Rachel Griffiths it's scary.
Anyway, Hedwig and the Angry Inch is fun, it's smart, it's sad but in that good way, and I can guarantee you've never seen anything like it before.