The rock musical Hedwig And The Angry Inch wasn’t a box-office success when it was released in 2001—it made back just over half of a $6 million budget during its modest theatrical run—but it was a ready-made cult favorite, thanks to its roots in the beloved 1999 Off-Broadway theatrical production that inspired it. The stage musical has recently morphed into a new, slightly altered Tony-winning Broadway production starring Neil Patrick Harris, making the film the best remaining link to the original Jane Street Theater production, which was conceived by and starred John Cameron Mitchell.
In addition to serving as a first-time director on the film, Mitchell reprises the role he originated onstage: Hedwig, née Hansel Schmidt, a former “slip of a girly-boy from East Berlin” who undergoes an unwanted, incomplete sex-change operation to escape Germany with her American lover, and eventually becomes an “internationally ignored” glam/punk/drag singing sensation, touring the country and telling her tragic story. The film follows the play’s conceit closely, functioning as an extended monologue in which Hedwig shares her life story via confessional storytelling, Borscht-belt one-liners, and most prominently, the genre-bending songwriting of Stephen Trask. But the film also diverts from the source material in clever ways, incorporating a flashback structure, animated interludes from Emily Hubley, and more.
It’s a strange, clever, compelling film full of wonderful music, and we hope you’ll join us next week to pay homage to Miss Hedwig and her Angry Inch. We’ll begin on Tuesday with my Keynote on how the film navigates the divide between theatrical and cinematic convention, followed on Wednesday by the staff Forum on the film’s take on glam and punk, fame and infamy, and more. Then on Thursday, Matthew Dessem will explore Hubley’s long family history in the arts, which stretches from Snow White to Yo La Tengo. So please, put on some makeup and some LaVern Baker, pull the wig down from the shelf, and join in the discussion.
Upcoming Movies Of The Week
September 8: The Lady Eve
September 15: Grey Gardens
September 22: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
September 29: McCabe & Mrs. Miller