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Hedwig (John Cameron Mitchell) was born Hansel, a boy, in East Germany when the Wall went up; after a botched change of sex operation – in order to marry an American soldier and escape – is living an American nightmare as she tries to gain recognition as a rock singer, with her own pan-Slavic rock band. She has an affair with a naïve young man, who draws inspiration from her and after she launches his career with a new name, Tommy Gnosis (Michael Pitt), becomes a huge star. Hedwig is left fuming in his shadow, until fate brings them together again, but the encounter has unexpected consequences.

Take no notice of the synopsis above. Like most magnificent, unique films, Hedwig is far more complex than a paraphrased storyline could hope to convey, and it becomes almost misleading by its omissions. Defying categorisation, Hedwig has its origins in a successful off-Broadway play – or should that be musical? Or what? Well, never mind, because like a mysterious Eastern dish whose exact content description is missing, the end result is a feast. There are more fresh ideas in this film than you could find in a month of movies on the mainstream menu, and a mix of styles and genres from high camp to highbrow, from comedy to tragedy. It also makes brilliant use of animation in a new way, using the power of simplicity to convey complex human notions. The film’s moods swing from amusing to amazing, from pathos to spoof, but the focus never shifts from the central character herself, Hedwig. This is a lacerating and lavish portrait of an invented yet recognisable and complete character. Mitchell is spectacular, vulnerable, powerful and fascinating as Hedwig – what’s more, we come to an understanding of her character that is fully satisfying. Defying its camp potential, Hedwig breaks away from the stereotypical and becomes a person. The film manages to engage from its first moment to its last, imbued with a mix of bravado and tenderness that is genuinely touching and memorable. Chock a block with some great songs – performed with dynamic passion or with stillnesss and introspection – infused with razor sharp humour drawn from pain, Hedwig is a handgranade of a film, and I hope I’ve managed to lure you to it.
Andrew L. Urban

It's wild, it rocks and it's really out there. Just like The Rocky Horror Show seduced us with its divine time warp, Hedwig (pron. Head-vig) And The Angry Inch lures us into a bizarre punk rock world that is a sensational explosion of emotion, music and imagery. Originally an off-Broadway production, it's no surprise at all that the film won the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award in 2000. Hedwig is a genuine trip – a fabulous, frivolous fling into the annals of rock 'n roll, where gender bender-ing integrates with the rhythms of life, as readily as two halves meld into one whole. If the title intrigues you, you won't be disappointed! In a word, it's breathtaking. Entertaining – tick. Unusual – tick. Inventive – tick. A knock out – tick. Leave all your inhibitions at home – you can let your hair down big time. Actor, writer, director John Cameron Mitchell's Hedwig is amazing. From the beginning when we meet Hedwig, she is a fascinating vision in a long platinum wig, sequins, knee high red boots, accentuated glitter lips and eyes, impossibly drawn pencil thin expressive eyebrows and hairy armpits, as she delivers her soul through song, gyrating wildly with gestures that leave little to the imagination. Hedwig's story, past and present, told through song, has all the poignancy and sensitivity of tragedy imbued in a sequined dress. The tunes will make your toes tap compulsively, the lyrics will make you laugh, cry and cringe. Imagine Barbra Streisand, Cher, Monica Potter and Sandra Bullock all rolled into the guise of a transvestite… complex? You bet! Art reflects life, and while much of the film is outrageous, its very essence - the need to love and belong - is universal and affects us all. Animation cleverly marries concepts and ideas in a simple, yet effective way. High energy, brilliantly colourful and with enough emotion to thaw an iceberg, Hedwig And The Angry Inch is a spectacular reflection of reality, fantasy, fact and fiction. Hedwig is hot, hot, hot! Go sizzle.
Louise Keller

You could be forgiven for thinking it was 1978 as this adaptation of the off-Broadway rock theatre hit kicks in with cheesy opening titles and Hedwig's band tearing up the stage at a suburban seafood restaurant called Bilgewaters. If it really was 1978, however, the band would be playing at CBGB's or Max's Kansas City and Hedwig would be on the cover of fanzines like Bomp! and Sniffin' Glue. In fact, real-life transsexual punk rocker Wayne/Jayne County seems to be the uncredited inspiration for this film's deviant diva. Add some Ziggy Stardust, Rocky Horror, Velvet Goldmine, Phantom of the Paradise, All About Eve, Priscilla...and plenty of Deutscher angst and you have a spirited outing that never fails to entertain. Where this will find it harder going is convincing a wide audience to root for its heroine. The trouble isn't that Hedwig is a freak - she's only a slight exaggeration on what rock and roll has already brought forth - it's her too-sarcastic bitch persona and the slightly narcissistic direction of writer/director/star John Cameron Mitchell. Messages about musical, personal and sexual freedom are welcome; the manner in which they're delivered isn't always conducive to warm reception because of it's choppy, episodic structure and the feeling that Mitchell the director is a little too enamored of Mitchell the star. On the plus side there's a great clutch of songs written by Stephen Trask and a cast bubbling with enthusiasm - Andrea Martin is a standout as the band's Chanel-suited manager, Phyllis Stein (geddit?). Above all it has the rebellious, raucous spirit of rock and roll bursting out all over, and that's just fine by me.
Richard Kuipers

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What is it?



CAST: John Cameron Mitchell, Michael Pitt, Miriam Shor, Stephen Trask, Theodore Liscinski

PRODUCERS: Pamela Koffler, Katie Roumel, Christine Vachon

DIRECTOR: John Cameron Mitchell

SCRIPT: John Cameron Mitchell, Stephen Trask


EDITOR: Andrew Marcus

MUSIC: Stephen Trask


RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 1, 2001

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