Considering that neither of us particularly like musicals, it’s something of a surprise that Hedwig and the Angry Inch is actually the third musical on our list (after The Sound of Music and Cabaret). Is this an admission that actually we secretly really love musicals but are afraid to admit it for fear of sullying our macho personas? Unlikely. But we know a good show tune when we hear one.
(Actually, would you count A Hard Day’s Night as a musical? If so, that’s FOUR musicals so far: we’re clearly fans of the genre.)
Anyway, Hedwig was my recommendation, although as you’ll hear in the podcast it met with a fairly lukewarm reaction from Ian, that young slip of a girly boy from East London. One of his main bugbears was about the ending, which is admittedly a bit ambiguous, but then who doesn’t like a bit of ambiguity in their movies? I’d definitely rather have a final scene of a confused and shambling manwoman than a trite happy ending with an obvious set-up for a sequel.
[For some reason the ending of Godzilla just popped into my mind – thank god that pile of rubbish never got a sequel, even though the ending practically cried out for one. Well, perhaps begged imploringly for one would be more accurate. Although speaking of Godzilla, we might do the original Japanese version at a later date: watch this space. Still, enough about Eastern movie monsters, let’s get back to East German transgender rock stars.]
Hedwig and the Angry Inch is an odd story to say the least: an East Berliner named Hansel undergoes a sex change operation in order to marry his/her American GI sweetheart and escape to America, but the operation is botched – hence the angry inch. Later the GI leaves Hedwig, so she starts a band and begins dating a teenager called Tommy, who later changes his name to Tommy Gnosis, steals all her songs and becomes hugely famous. The movie picks up as Hedwig and her band are playing in a chain of restaurants called Bilgewaters as they follow Tommy around the country in an attempt to confront him about the plagiarism.
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking: CLICHÉ!
Hedwig herself is a fantastic character: despite being prone to outbreaks of rage and self-pity, she somehow still manages to be sympathetic, and I guarantee you’ll end up rooting for her by the end. Unless you’re curmudgeonly old Ian of course, in which case your stony heart will remain unmoved throughout. But at least we could agree that the film has some cracking tunes, and Hedwig delivers some brilliantly funny monologues. I’ll leave you with a few pearls of her wisdom…
“Our apartment was so small that mother made me play in the oven. Late at night I would listen to the voices of the American masters, Tony Tennille, Debby Boone, Anne Murray who was actually a Canadian working in the American idiom. And then there were the crypto-homo rockers: Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, David Bowie who was actually an idiom working in America and Canada. These artists, they left as deep an impression on me as that oven rack did on my face. To be an American in muskrat love, soft as an easy chair not even the chair, I am I said, have I never been mellow? And the colored girls sing… doo do doo do doo do doo… but never with the melody. How could I do it better than Tony or Lou… HEY BOY, TAKE A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE!”
If our review has piqued your interest in the film, you can buy the Hedwig and the Angry Inch DVD from Amazon by clicking here (and we get a little bit of cash if you do – thanks in advance)
Anyway, without further ado, let us present our feature presentation:
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Director: John Cameron Mitchell Year of release: 2001 Studio/Distributor: Killer Films/New Line Cinema Country: USA