Rock Poetry Worthy of Pete
It's safe to say that there are some sexually
dysfunctional folks quartered in Midwestern trailer parks.
Not that I can offer primary evidence, mind you, but Hedwig
does live for a while in a single-wide in Junction City, Kansas.
And were it not for several dozen wheat fields, he'd be next
door neighbors to Teena Brandon, which seems about right.
But where Teena was a quiet, white-trash Romeo stealing hearts
against all odds, Hedwig is a boisterous punk rocker whose
issues are displayed with considerable plumage. You see, Hedwig's
sex change operation was botched, so he's stuck with "six
inches forward, five inches back." "The Angry Inch"
is the result of this, and it's also the name of his band,
a loud therapy troupe of codependent enablers, hanging on
to Hedwig's promises of glory.
Actually, this promise is not too far-fetched.
Hedwig's songs have been stolen by a formerly shy ex-boyfriend
whom he educated in the ways of music and lyrics, among other
things. So Hedwig and his Angry Inch tag along behind Tommy
Gnosis' monster tour, slashing out punk rock from behind the
buffets of stadium-area restaurants. Hedwig also has a quiet,
blue-eyed admirer in his band, whom I can't identify, but
whose performance broke my heart. The longing in his eyes
is the most accurate measure of why people stay in bad relationships
as I've seen in recent movies.
It's been nearly a month since I've seen Hedwig
and the Angry Inch, which should probably explain why
I've had trouble churning out a review of it, so I can't give
it the attention its artistry deserves. I will say that John
Cameron Mitchell's performance as Hedwig is layered and touchingthink
Phillip Seymore Hoffman's performance in Flawless with
the performance responsibility of Nicole Kidman in Moulin
Rouge!. The rock song score is the best I've heard in
a long time, certainly since the days of Eddie and the
Cruisers or even Quadrophenia. And in a brilliant
calculation, we don't observe Hedwig performing each song
in its entirety; we do hear each full song, but he's visually
accompanied by abstract animation. There's an especially touching
sequence with the Greek idea of doubly-limbed bodies dividing,
then searching for their missing half. Not just in the animation,
but John Cameron Mitchell's visuals often approach sublime
poetry. For instance, Hedwig pauses to recount he weary life
story while sitting on a pile of old, tread-worn tires. Hedwig
and the Angry Inch should make several critics' top-ten
lists, but probably won't because of its subject material.
Don't be put off by the transsexual theme; Mitchell's story
is about love, pain, and longing in its purest forms. And
it takes a potshot at Phil Collins. What more do you want?