Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001) Poster

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A Brilliant Film - Fun and Multi-Layered
EdYerkeRobins17 February 2002
Adapted from an off-Broadway show, "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" is the end result of 6 years of character and idea evolution by creator John Cameron Mitchell. Equal parts musical, mockumentary, and drama, the film pleases on all levels.

The film's musical numbers are brilliantly crafted and cross several different genres. A country-flavored number, "Sugar Daddy", appears smack-dab in the middle of all the punk and glam rock tunes, daring anyone to doubt the soundtrack's variety. The majority of the songs are catchy and great fun to listen to ("Wig in a Box" even has a karaoke sing-a-long during the second chorus), while staying true to the themes of the movie and Hedwig's life. John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig) sings live vocals over a pre-recorded band mix, and this definitely lends more of a live concert feel than if he had simply lip-synched all the songs for the role. The majority of the cast is reunited from the original cast of the "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" play, so fans of the original play who have not seen the movie need not worry about "outsiders" ruining it in transition.

The film's mockumentary nature mainly results from how the songs, being "autobiographical", are preceded by scenes of commentary by Hedwig and a flashback from her life. While the transition from real time to flashback is usually made quite clear, some scenes (particularly the climax, which is a mess trying to piece together) are confusing as to what is real and what is flashback. The rest of the mockumentary comes between musical sequences, during Hedwig's interaction with her manager, band, and showing of mixed feelings towards Tommy Gnosis, an ex-lover who stole all her material for his own album and is now a popular teen idol. Her interactions with husband Yitzhak (who, due to an excellent make-up job and performance by original cast member Miriam Shor, I had no idea was played by a woman until I saw "Like It or Not", a documentary on the film included on the DVD) would have made the list as well, had a vital character-development scene with Yitzhak (the only non-Hedwig flashback in the entire movie) been left in the final cut; as it is, Yitzhak serves only as Hedwig's back-up singer and whipping boy, a much less important character. Most of the film's situations, however, are explained well, via flashback or dialogue, and have well-written gay and transsexual jokes.

Underneath all the humor and the music, however, is the serious theme of feeling spiritually "whole". Hedwig seems to interpret this (through the song "Origin of Love" and some interesting animated vignettes) as through finding love and one's soul-mate. Mitchell, who knows his character better than anyone, gives an amazing performance and is not only able to portray Hedwig's bitchy diva side, but also able to make the audience sympathize with why she acts that way (unlike real-life divas), and how deeply her inner feelings and her failures so far at "becoming whole" through a relationship trouble her.

Having not even the faintest idea of what the film was about other than that it was a musical, I was very pleasantly surprised at how much fun I had with Hedwig, and how at the same time it never strayed far from its serious theme. In its journey from a character, to a play, to a movie, "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" has won over audiences as well as taken home accolades at Sundance, but has not had much mainstream success (chalk this up to its "controversial" transsexual main character and the popularity of "Moulin Rouge!", an experiment in stylistic over-extravagance, which is bigger and flashier than "Hedwig" due to its grand budget but lacks the sense of "genuine" emotion in the plot). This is quite tragic, because in retrospect, "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" was definitely one of 2001's best films.
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I could never hope to praise this enough: 10/10
zetes5 November 2001
No matter how much I do praise it, I'll end up turning people against it. But, let me ask you: what were you expecting when you first heard of Hedwig and the Angry Inch? It's been billed as a punk rock musical about a transsexual from East Germany who was duped into coming to live in a trailer park in Kansas City. So what was I expecting? A gay camp film. I had no doubts that it would be anything else. And that's not to say that I wouldn't have enjoyed a gay camp movie. After all, I liked Moulin Rouge. But I got a surprise that was entirely unexpected: what I experienced was the best new film I had seen in years. And I mean that. Hedwig and the Angry Inch is equally hilarious and touching. Not that I want to spread cliches, but I seriously laughed and I seriously cried, often simultaneously. This manages to be the best American comedy since, damn, Preston Sturges was still writing and directing. It's easily the best movie musical since Cabaret. It's also one of the most heartfelt and passionate dramas, and one of the best character studies I've ever seen. Along with that, John Cameron Mitchell delivers a performance that perhaps hasn't been equalled since, I don't know, Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull, which might be the ultimate cinematic character study. I shouldn't say that, because it might hint that Hedwig is a dark character, but, well, I'd call her just a great protagonist. She's a heroine, especially to anyone experiencing sexual confusion, but even to me, a straight, Midwestern boy. Hedwig is a heroine for anyone who's ever felt that they've been treated like crap their entire life. I wanted to clap for and support Hedwig emotionally throughout the entire film. In short, Hedwig is a character I deeply loved, equal to just a few other characters I've met throughout my extensive journeys in the cinema. Parallel to a situation in the film, if I should ever see John Cameron Mitchell on the street, I'd have to hug him.

I also have another heap of praise that I have to go through before I am done. I've always thought that movie musicals adapted from stage plays were the death of the genre. Only a few exceptions ever seemed more than unimaginative, slavish films that worked only to bring Broadway to an audience who could or would never visit NYC. Cabaret was the one big exception that I had seen previously, but you also hear West Side Story mentioned as being a great film. But, in adapting a stage play for the screen, I always expect the film to seem stranded on stage. To boot, Hedwig had another mark against it: the director, Mitchell again, had never directed a film before. Well, I really don't know what training he had in the art, but it must have been enough. The cinematic art, at least the visual aspect of it, has nearly been forgotten in the 1990s and 2000s, but John Cameron Mitchell creates a visual tour de force as much as he does one of writing and acting. I love the scene where Hedwig the adult reminisces about how his mother forced him to put his head in the oven if he wanted to sing when he was a child. And Hedwig and the Angry Inch's (that's the band's name as well as the film's) appearance outside the Menses Festival next to the port-o-potties. A goth chick, who presumably didn't have tickets for the actual Menses Festival, watches the band in deep curiosity and confusion; Hedwig invites the girl to sit up on stage with her while she relates her past. I also love the sequence where the American G.I. discovers him laying naked in rubble. Hedwig's original name was Hansel, which leads to one of the funniest jokes I can ever recall seeing. Or how about the scene where Hedwig, when babysitting, discovers Tommy, the future rock star who steals all her songs, masturbating in the bath tub? That scene is handled so well that I almost died laughing. To tell you the truth, I don't think there is anything ostensibly wrong with the film, period. I just wanted to talk about the amazing direction because the one review of it I have on hand says "the direction can't help from being flat." FLAT? How can you say that it is flat? PS: The animated number and the song that goes along with it is adapted from Aristophanes' speech in Plato's Symposium, about which I wrote my senior thesis in college. The rock star's stage name, Gnosis, is Ancient Greek for "knowledge," which Hedwig actually says in the film. One of the filmmakers must have learned Ancient Greek at some point in his life. Bravo, good sirs.
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philip-ct14 December 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Hedwig is an outstanding movie - compelling, rugged, sensitive, in-your-face, and full of committed energy from cast and crew. I used to think that Cabaret was the best musical made, and love the high camp-glam of Rocky Horror. But Hedwig edges these movies in my opinion.

James Cameron Mitchell imbues Hedwig with dignity, bluster, bravura and credibility. It is an inspired performance, with riveting songs. (I stayed to the very end of the credits, breaking out into song. Bear in mind that South Africans have not had access to the stage play.)

This film is more original and more daring than the other 2001 contender for 'redefining' the musical, Moulin Rouge. Maybe this is because the main characters are 'filled' in so well, in terms of music/lyrics, others' reactions to them, and by incredibly clear characterising. Hedwig, though over the top, is a cross between Sally Bowles and Frank-'n-Furter. Roll on Sing-along Hedwig!!

The story is quite simple - Hedwig has an angry inch (from a botched sex-change). Hedwig is angry, too, because s/he is searching for a sense of self, for the 'other' (that song 'Origin of Love' is mythical rock which works). James Cameron Mitchell is good as both Hansel (his male persona) and Hedwig; his search for Tommy Gnossis - his creation, his 'Rocky' ? - and ultimate reconciliation are moving.

The end scene is magnificent as Hedwig transforms into Hansel, all male, totally male, while Hedwig is lifted up into the audience. At this point it seems that the film was saying many things about love, about identity, about relating.

A stunning film - and, being a novice to Hedwig (like a Rocky Horror virgin) I thought Miriam Shor was a foreign name for an interesting support actor. Imagine my delight (and mortification) when I realise that 'he' is a woman!

The illusion continues.

See this film; I agree with the reviewer who calls it 'Kick Ass'. For me it is one of the most compelling and interesting films of 2001.

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Amazing movie, amazing Soundtrack
rkeefe15 September 2004
A true Rock Opera! Not for the small minded. Every song is amazing and wonderful - Origin of Love - is one of the best songs of our time. The illustrated mini-movies through out the movie truly enhance it. Beautiful and tragic. Unlike anything else, Rocky Horror pales in comparison. Amazing performances! I loved this movie! Hedwig is a truly beautiful and twisted character. This movie explains how someone gets to a very unusual point in their life. This movie shows that human beings have faults, emotion, love, anger and strife, no matter what their sex is, or how unusual they seem. The costumes are amazing and the sets rock. All around magic.
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Brilliant toe-tapping stuff
Chris_Docker27 August 2001
Already the winner of numerous awards including the Audience and Director awards at Sundance, this is the film of an original stage musical comedy that played off Broadway for over two years. It centres on Hedwig, whose only way of escaping from East Berlin is to undergo a sex-change and assume his mother's identity. Unfortunately the operation goes wrong and he is left with an `angry inch'. Escaping to America, he forms a rock band whilst seeking the soul partner that will fulfil his destiny. Loaded with songs that you will be humming all the way out of the cinema, Hedwig and the Angry Inch is the funniest, most outrageously entertaining movie of its kind since Rocky Horror. Unlike Rocky Horror, it does have some more serious philosophical reflections built into it (mostly via the songs), but it rocks, kicks ass and injects some seriously funny pizzaz into the transgender scene. I had the advantage not only of seeing the UK stage version a few days after the film, but also hearing the director speak about his work at the UK premiere. As a first time film effort it's quite an accomplishment, but as Cameron also played Hedwig in the stage version he had a starter for ten. On the down-side, the film is probably better on second or third viewing, when all the pieces would fit into place, and towards the end there is a tendency to tell the story only in songs and so at the expense of any serious script writing. But still it's a must-see movie.
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Very strange but GREAT!
preppy-320 June 2001
Tard to follow (at times) but fascinating story about a transsexual rock singer named Hedwig and her quest for fame, fortune and love. Impossible to describe, but a pleasure to watch. Never stops moving and extremely well-directed by John Cameron Mitchell (who also gives a wonderful performance as Hedwig). The songs are loud and good, performed with gusto and tons of energy. A rare Hollywood film that doesn't play it safe with its sexual content and doesn't wimp out at the end. A one of a kind film and well worth seeing.
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Unbelievably Amazing and Completely Kick-Ass.
PF23 April 2001
The press kit touts this film as a "Post-punk neo-glam rock odyssey," based on the hit off-broadway show that ran in New York from 1998-2000. Some people have compared it to the Rocky Horror Picture Show, but that's only because it's the only other Glam Rock musical ever made into a movie.

The premise alone should make you want to see it: A rock-and-roll drag queen tells her bizarre life story, starting as a boy in East Berlin, falling in love with an American GI, and going for a sex-change operation, waking up to find nothing but a "one-inch mound of flesh" where her organ should be. The story takes more twists and turns after that, and I don't want to spoil anything.

The story is told mostly through the songs, which are perfect rock and roll gems, on par with the songs from Tommy. After only seeing it once, I walked away singing the words "Six inches forward and five inches back...I've got an angry inch!" over and over for days.

For a directorial debut with no big-name movie stars, the acting is right on the mark. These are theater people, after all, and there's none of the cringeworthy bad acting you see in a lot of independent films. John Cameron Mitchell gives the character Hedwig so much emotional depth, you forget that the premise is so silly.

The costumes are amazing, as you would expect from a movie with a drag queen as the main character. Hedwig wears no less than 41 outfits, one of which is a dress made entirely of hair.

I came away from this movie totally inspired. It positively electrified me with an energy I rarely feel from movies anymore. And I don't even like musicals!
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An Angry Inch is just enough.
karrisamarie8014 September 2004
This movie is insane. That's why I liked it so much. The plot and visuals are as twisted as the inch that Hedwig is left with after her botched sex-change. In contrast, the lyrics of the many songs in the this movie are beautiful and poetic. I'm going to search out the sound track for this movie, as the songs were brilliant and inspiring.

This movie shows that everything has two sides that some how merge together to form the truth, The beautiful woman with the ugly, scarred genitals. The everlasting love soured by betrayal and shame. The cravings for success marred by the fear of power.

The unusual story, and the wonderful music make this movie alone worth watching. The amazing acting, outrageous costumes, and fabulous wigs make it a cult classic.

Another success for producer Christine Vachon, and a definite recommend from me!!!
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A gem in the heap of garbage called "American film"
sundog114 June 2003
Without gushing, I think that this is the best film to come out of the US in several years. This is the type of movie which demands repeated viewing, and reveals itself a little each time. I'm surprised that the genius of this film didn't receive more accolades at the time, but I attribute that to the socially acceptable restraints of the mass culture.

Absolutely perfect production from top to bottom, makes you laugh out loud... then tears your heart out & puts it back in again. Multi layered & symbolic throughout.

Songwriting by Stephen Trask is sublime. But how the hell can a clown like Eminem get an Oscar & this guy was virtually ignored?! Sickening thought. Cameron Mitchell must have been born for this part... a brave & charismatic perf.

This movie achieves everything that "Velvet Goldmine" (yuck) could not... in a fraction of the time.

Anyway, anyone who's got a little freak in them will love this movie. And those who don't "get it" should be content watching the rest of American mass market trash cinema.
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Wonderfully sad and funny!
patriciamartin9 April 2004
I am a Male to Female Transsexual and this movie has helped bring across some of what we face in our lives. It did it in a way with comedy with an underlying love story. The story starts as a child and follows her throughout life until her dreams (well some of them) are met. There are may twists and turns along the way making this more realistic to me, a transsexual at the end of her long road of discovery. It is tender to a point of bringing tears and full emotions to you. Only problem I have is that Hedwig is making fun of her condition, caused by a messed up surgery, Thank goodness she can continue to see the good in things, or can she!!!
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astoundingly brilliant, somewhat disturbing. A must see.
Paul Clough (bjorksjoga)23 November 2005
This was a film I had planned to watch for an extremely long time, it was lent to me by an ethics professor and I was blown away. I was astounded. Never could I have imagined how visually and sonically pleasing Hedwig would be all at once, yet surprisingly disturbing. And this is coming from a homosexual man who has spent an enormous amount of time around persons who have had sex changes, and innumerable drag queens. Hedwig also gave a startling new look at the collapse of (and years previous to) the Berlin wall. EVEN IF YOU THINK YOU WON'T LIKE THIS FILM SEE IT ANYWAY, you will be surprised. What I took that was even more unexpected than anything else, was great joy in the songs. Each song, particularly "The Origin Of Love", and "Angry Inch" were songs I would listen to without prompting from the film.
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This is the movie about love, not homosexual
fashion212 April 2004
at first sight, It seems like homosexual movie.

But This movie contains the origin of love(same title of sound track).

in the end, Hedwig perceive that he's not the female of physical or mental. and then he makes the perfection of himself

I like this movie with some reason - poetic songs, extraordinary scenes, fascinating animation and having director's real heart.

I'll give a name to this movie - Best movie of the decade!!

(Sorry about my halting description because My english is very poor ^^;)
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Hedwig's Shining, Like the Brightest Star
Caitlin Hughes1 December 2002
When one thinks of the concept of `rock musical,' one would usually think of brainless dance extravaganzas with no plot to be had. Well, ladies and gentlemen, whether you like it or not. Hedwig! The tremendously brilliant Hedwig and the Angry Inch counters the one's stereotype of the rock musical; it has intelligence, ingenuity and a deeper meaning. Unlike its predecessor Rocky Horror Picture Show, it is filmed through an artist's view and has the sexual energy and the integrity to match that of an art film.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch began as an Off-Broadway musical in 1997, where it achieved cult status and critical acclaim. It is the story of Hansel (Ben Mayer-Goodman/John Cameron Mitchell), a homosexual young man who grew up in communist East Berlin, and dreamed of leaving his war-ridden homeland to find his soul mate. He thinks that he finds his soul mate in the person of U.S. Sergeant Luther Robinson (Maurice Dean Wint), a man who lusts for Hansel, but does not accept him for who he is. He proposes marriage to Hansel, with the promise that he will take him from East Berlin to America. However, Hansel's freedom comes with a price; he must undergo a sex change operation. Hansel's mother (Roberta Watson) gives Hansel her passport, and her name: Hedwig.

However, things do not go as planned. Hedwig's operation got botched, rendering her with an `angry inch,' and Luther instantly abandons her in a loathsome trailer in Kansas, where she keeps herself afloat with her dreams of becoming a glam rock star. To finance herself, she turns tricks at a nearby military base and becomes a babysitter for the children of commander of the local army fort. As a result, she falls in love with the commander's son, Tommy (Michael Pitt). Hedwig allows Tommy to collaborate on the brilliant songs that she has written and endows him with the rock name of `Gnosis,' the Greek word for `knowledge.' However, when Tommy learns of her sex, he too abandons her, steals Hedwig's songs, and becomes a rock and roll icon.

The film opens with Hedwig and her band, the aptly titled `Angry Inch,' performing in the straight-laced chain restaurant Bilgewater's, to horrified customers. Hedwig and the Angry Inch, along with their manager, Phyllis (Andrea Martin), have been following Tommy's world tour. In fact, Bilgewater's is adjacent to the humungous stadium where Tommy is performing. During her `world tour,' Hedwig recounts her heartbreaking story through a series of flashbacks, implemented through fades of white and different cinematography (absences of color, quality of film, etc).

The driving force behind every aspect in this film is John Cameron Mitchell, who starred, directed, and wrote the screenplay for Hedwig and the Angry Inch. This happening was extremely important, because Mitchell derived the entire concept of the Hedwig and brilliantly adapted it for the Off-Broadway stage. The stage version of Hedwig and the Angry Inch involved Hedwig recounting her past experiences through a narrative, so for the film version, Mitchell simply implemented the flashbacks in live action sequences. Even though his performance as Hedwig is deliciously tawdry sexual, through his brilliant acting talent, one is able to have a peek at Hedwig's loves and inner desperation for acceptance. Mitchell derived the basic concept of Hedwig and the Angry Inch from his own experiences growing up as the homosexual son of an army general. His father served in Berlin, and he had firsthand knowledge of the war situation.

Unlike most other rock musicals, the brilliant songs that Hedwig periodically performed were done so during Hedwig's stage performances, not at random points in the film. This aspect added to the believability of the film, discouraging the absurdity of its predecessors. Stephen Trask, who also appeared in the film, brilliantly wrote the Hedwig's songs. The songs did not have a tinge of campy like Broadway-style songs; they reflected the glam rock principles like the songs of David Bowie and Lou Reed from which they were based. Trask's past is in rock and roll, hence the obvious edge of the songs in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Mitchell's beautiful voice adds a triumphant punch to all of the songs (he starred in numerous musicals prior to Hedwig.) and lets the emotions of the beautiful lyrics and his brilliant performance shine through.

Even though Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a very low-budgeted independent film, Mitchell turned to his inventive imagination in order to create a richly beautiful and artistic piece. For example, he used imaginative camera angles to produce special effects. During `Angry Inch' performance scene, he executed a low angle medium shot underneath him to make it appear as though he was flying over a room of revolting people. Then, he executed a high angle long shot to depict the people from his perspective. Also, he used cinematography to change the mood of the film from the beginning to the end. For example, in the beginning of the film, Hedwig wore lush, elaborate wigs and brightly colored costumes and lighting was in warm, pinkish hues to depict Hedwig's more positive outlook. In contrast, toward the end of the film, Hedwig wore stark wigs and costumes and the film was filmed in higher contrast to depict Hedwig's tragic breakdown.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch recounts Hedwig's journey to find her soul mate: her journey of becoming `whole.' Mitchell derived this concept from `Plato's Symposium,' in which there were three sexes of people (man-woman, woman-woman, and man-man), with four arms and four legs, that were split in half by Zeus and wandered the earth, searching for their other half. Hedwig views herself as being a half of a whole, and thus does not accept herself for who she really is. Her first two attempts at love proved to be futile, and her current relationship with band mate, Yitzhak (Miriam Shor), is shallow and empty. In the face of adversity, Hedwig finds herself tragically alone. In order to find her destiny, she must look to herself for the answer.
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Enemies and adversaries, they'll try and tear her down!
Nmbr69 February 2004
This is an *amazing* movie. Quite simply amazing.

I'm a total music geek, I can find faults with almost any music you throw my way. My favorite rock operas include Genesis' "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway," Kevin Gilbert's "The Shaming of the True"... And the newest addition to the list -- "Hedwig and the Angry Inch."

That's right, you heard right, I'm calling it a rock opera. This quite simply ain't no musical. And 2 minutes into this, before they were done with the first song, I already knew I had to get a copy of the soundtrack. And I did the next day.

I've also gotten a hold of the original cast recording, and there's an album of covers of the songs by various 3d party artists called "Wig in a Box" that I've also gotten and I've been listening to all three obsessively.

There's just something *about* watching a tall and fairly good looking transsexual with hairy armpits and quite possibly the worst blond wig I've ever seen sing some amazingly good 70's style arena glam rock... In the middle of a divey restaurant, with a bunch of old, balding people who look like they belong in a Florida retirement community trying really hard to ignore the music, complaining to their waitress and then finally standing up to leave...

In one scene, the band is almost entirely hidden behind the restaurant's salad bar.

But none of this manages to tear Hedwig down -- the amazing quality of the music, the performance... Does not at any point suffer from the attitude of the unreceptive listeners. Almost as if she *knows* that the viewers at home are loving it... So WHO CARES about the more immediate audience.

And the story? This story is inspirational, thoughtful, sensitive, beautiful... Aside from the fact that it's very, very strange and prides itself on being so. Even if there isn't an element of the gender bending lifestyle in your life... As long as you have reasonably good taste in music -- as long as your immediate response to the question "Ziggy played... what?" is something like "Guitar, of course! And gosh, was that ever a good song!" -- you will enjoy this movie.

And if there *is* an element of gender bending to your lifestyle... This is practically a must watch.
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Creation from What You Have to Work With
tedg11 February 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

Great film transports us to unfamiliar places in such a way that we are given enough familiarity to have it register.

This is whole, consistent -- a real vision that sticks. It is easier, I suppose, when it is a performance of a performance.

But is it an affair like Horrock's `Little Voice'? Is it love?

It is for now anyway.
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meyerinc21 March 2002
What a beautifully shot film! The costumes, the scenery, the camera angles, the transition between live action and animation! And let's not forget the fabulous soundtrack! What a triumph for John Cameron Mitchell: writer, director, starring role! Looking forward to more from him!
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I am completely in love with this movie!
lisadewild2 July 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I grudgingly rented this movie not knowing what I was getting into. And from the very first frame, my eyes and ears took turns getting raped, getting tickled, and on and on...when Hedwig sang "Wicked Town" and then noticed Tommy kinda hiding but watching, my heart did a flip. Literally. That's when I fell in love with this movie. Then when Tommy "covered" that same song towards the end of the movie, I was practically CRYING!!! I selected that same scene over and over, then started selecting other scenes to watch over and over and over again...then I essentially re-watched the entire movie several times over!!! This is such an addicting movie...I saw so many poetic shots, I could feel the love, and I had no earthly clue that Yitzhak was actually being portrayed by a CHICK. This gem of a movie is truly a work of genius. I recognized the winks and nods to "Tommy" and to "Rocky Horror"! I highly recommend it to everyone, no matter what their sexual orientation!
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Thinking Outside the Wig Box
"Hedwig and the Angry Inch" is not a musical. The only argument to the contrary is the musical sequence "Wig in a Box," which still morphs into a music video.

But I digress. John Cameron Mitchell's film adaptation of the gender-bending rock play actually makes drag interesting, with Mitchell himself as Hedwig Robinson, an East German rock star with a dream to rock America and find her other half (a concept fully explained in the beautiful mythology of "The Origin of Love"). Other classic performances come from such talents as Miriam Shor, Andrea Martin, and Michael Pitt. All are terrific.

Emily Hubley's exquisite animations enhance the film with their occasional entrance. And as a "classic-rock loving, Dungeons & Dragons obsessed Jesus freak with a fish on his truck," Pitt delivers the film's worthiest (and most confusingly downplayed) performance. As Tommy Gnosis, his relationship-turned-rivalry with Hedwig is a key element in the film's satisfying buildup.

Essentially, "Angry Inch" is a series of outstanding rock songs laced together with genuine pathos that feels more natural than in any other movie in a long time. All things considered, it's a trip to a simpler place in the universe. And you can try and tear it down.

It just won't work. Hedwig rocks!
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The phenomenon called Hedwig
Camera Obscura5 February 2007
Oh my, this Hedwig is one angry German glam-rocking bitch.

The character of Hedwig was already created in 1994 by John Cameron Mitchell and was gradually turned into a theater show and became a real sensation in New York City in 1999, so the film version was inevitable. One can't help but have enormous admiration for the enormous amount of work and energy he put into bringing this adaptation of his Off-Broadway act onto the screen and produce this riveting glam-rock musical mockumentary about an East-German transsexual singer touring the American Midwest with his rock-band "The Angry Inch".

A gifted storyteller and 'internationally ignored' rock singer, Hedwig's disillusions do not inhibit her from pursuing ambitions of grotesque grandness, in fact, it's hard to think of a more narcissistic person than her. Hedwig was born as a boy named Hansel in the former East-Berlin whose life dream is to find his 'other half'. He reluctantly submits to a sex change operation in order to marry an American G.I. and get over the Berlin Wall to freedom. However, the operation is botched, leaving him with the titular 'angry inch.' (from now on, I shall refer to Hedwig in the female form again) After a few years of marriage and ending up in a Kansas City trailer-park, Hedwig pushes on to form a rock band and encounters a young singer, whom she dubs Tommy Gnosis, who eventually leaves her, steals her songs and becomes a huge rock star.

Most of the film features angry Hedwig performing in near-empty diners filled with the occasional fan, but mostly with unwilling suburban audiences, not quite ready for her emotional honesty. Many of the songs are great, not really my kind of music, but there's no denying this is a musical that rocks, made by people who really know rock music. The occasional flashback to Hedwig's Berlin youth have a surprisingly touching and emotional touch, but the narrative arc to put all this into a more broader political context didn't quite do it for me. It's the kind of grand, somewhat simplified gesture, like comparing Hedwig's own longing for his 'other half' to the history of the Berlin Wall, that can be hard to swallow. However, the filming is great, a real colourful visual palet and the writing offers enough sardonic wit to keeps things sharp and edgy and - most importantly - Mitchell's presence is so commanding, he practically forces you to pay full attention throughout the film's running time.

Camera Obscura --- 7/10
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This is my favorite movie to date.
iradog8518 July 2005
The first time I saw this movie, I didn't completely pay attention. I'm glad I gave it another chance, because when I truly opened my eyes, ears and heart, it was a worthwhile 90 minutes. It is now my favorite movie to date.

Although I don't agree with much of the philosophy in the film(primarily "Origin of Love"), I admire how Hedwig truly does believe in what she sings. The imagery is often subtle, but every time I watch the movie, I catch something new or feel a newfound appreciation for something I've already noticed. There is a scene where two characters are sitting in a motor home on the floor, and one holds up a hand mirror so that half of one face is in the mirror and the other half-face is filmed directly. Wonderful imagery for the "other half" philosophy.

The costumes are flamboyant; the hair and make-up is loud and beautiful.

John Cameron-Mitchell and Stephen Trask made such a good team. I hope to see more musical productions from one or both of them.
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A terrific Film
droopfozz15 January 2002
The comparisons to Rocky Horror are misguided. This is far better, and actually is about something important. Mitchell is amazing, and so is the idea. No film has ever expressed sexuality, longing, confusion, or rock and roll, so elequently as this little film.
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Two sets of arms...two sets of legs
moonspinner5513 August 2001
A pointed and serious rock musical with a bitter comedic edge. Hedwig is a half-man/half-woman singer in the Midwest who has quite a story to tell. She managed to get out of run-down East Berlin by marrying a gay American officer--but not before having a sex operation that "got botched". Now she's on a quest to face down the teen idol she discovered and groomed, a relationship that blew up in her face after the kid ran off with her songs. A vital and vivid depiction of sexual angst, one with excellent music written by Stephen Trask and performed by director-star John Cameron Mitchell (who really knows how to work the camera). Their film, adapted from the Off-Broadway cult smash, does have problems; it falters somewhere near the end and finishes limply. There's a streak of pretentiousness about the work that fails to bring the comedic elements and the drama together. Many sequences are amusing and bracing, however Mitchell's direction doesn't work out the balance of emotions we're feeling, and his conception leaves us behind. I didn't care for the surreal jumble that is the final fifteen minutes, but I loved the flashbacks to Hedwig's childhood (his flat was so small he had to play in the oven!) and all the players are game and forthright with Mitchell's take-no-prisoners approach. **1/2 from ****
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Whigs are not enough
Marky-169 September 2001
I was looking forward to this but was so disappointed. The music is terrible from start to finish. Cameron is a gifted performer but the story is just not good enough. I didn't care enough about Hedwig to be interested in how it ended. I was almost asleep by the finish.
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Semi-interesting story, boring music
evening13 December 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This would have been a better story if it were based on a real person. The fact that it is fictional seriously detracts from why anyone should care.

Aspects of Hedwig's saga are compelling, especially the stuff about growing up in East Germany, though I didn't buy for a minute that her mother would have suggested sex-reassignment surgery so she could marry an American GI. Hedwig's characterization is OK. Basically, Hedwig is a navel-examining narcissist who is seriously depressed. John Cameron Mitchell does a good job of portraying this transsexual, but watching her rant and gyrate on stage got pretty one-note quick.

I was impressed with the performance of Miriam Shor as Yizchak. While I admired the physical beauty of this character, I did not realize he was played by a woman till he spoke, in a lovely Russian accent, and I looked up the credits. Excellent illusion making.

The whole subplot involving Johnny Gnosis felt like filler most of the time.

In all, I'm glad I saw this latter-day cult classic just to see what it was about. But I don't think it'll do anything for me beyond that. And that's not why I see movies.
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Brilliant music, amazing movie
spazmodeus5 July 2003
I'll just say one thing: merely the "origin of love" song, accompanied by brilliant animation, has more art and genius than 100 normal full-length American films. And the whole movie is just plain awesome, on so many levels. Wow!
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