Saturday, September 29, 2012

Glam Slammed: "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" (2001)

I boldly shout it from the cyber rooftops: "I loved this frickin' movie!"

Hedwig (John Cameron Mitchell) and his band, the Angry Inch, is touring America, shadowing the more successful tour of Tommy Gnosis (Michael Pitt). Gnosis plays arenas, Hedwig plays Bilgewater's chain restaurants. Gnosis stole Hedwig's songs years earlier, when they were a couple.

Hedwig is the product of an American G.I. father and an East German mother. He grew up in East Berlin, in an apartment so small he had to play in the oven. He meets and falls in love with Luther (Maurice Dean Wint), but must pass a physical so he can go to America. Hedwig is castrated, leaving an angry inch of flesh. He goes to America, is dumped, and meets with Tommy, whom he immediately falls for.

The two have a strange connection as Hedwig tries to get a music career off the ground. Tommy becomes more successful, and Hedwig sings his songs with a little more anger and swagger. He takes his frustrations out on his band, especially Yitzhak (Miriam Shor), eventually ending up alone. Then Tommy drives back into his life.

This was a successful stage play written by Mitchell, with incredible songs by Stephen Trask, who also stars as one of the band members. Mitchell turns in a perfect performance. This difficult part seems easy in his hands. His performances of the songs are astounding. This is not an actor going through karaoke motions, the songs are wonderful and so is he. Andrea Martin is also very good as Phyllis, the agent, without overshadowing the production. Wint does a lot with a small role, Miriam Shor is very convincing as Yitzhak, the scene with Hedwig when Yitzhak wants to leave the band is a standout. Michael Pitt as Tommy looks about sixteen years old, but he plays his role to the hilt.

John Cameron Mitchell also directed the film, and being so familiar with the characters helps immensely. The shots are imaginative without showing off, the musical numbers outshine anything on MTV right now, and the pace is snappy.

"Hedwig and the Angry Inch" is an imaginative, touching, fun, heartbreaking, serious love story between a flawed man and his music. I waited too long to see this, and I am sorry I can only champion it now that it is on video. The songs are still running through my head, I think I found my favorite film of the new millennium. (* * * * *) out of five stars.