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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. 

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
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.

Of course, if you’ve seen the film, you won’t need me to tell you about it, but if you haven’t but are curious, here is your big chance. At least rent it, but if you have seen it, you’ll probably want to buy it – good call. The film is transferred to DVD in glorious, fully saturated colours, of which there are many, as you know, not least the Hedwig wig. . .The sound is full on and luscious, with great dynamic range, as you’d expect from a punk rock romantic comedy drama musical character study performance piece.

But there’s more. Much more. The commentary, for example, is a two hander with John Cameron Mitchell and Frank G. DeMarco. Two handers only work well if both commentators are good at it and can let the information/entertainment flow easily and on an equal footing. In this case, tick all boxes.

The graphics and navigation are a stylised match for the film’s bohemian, high energy style and mood, and offer a hefty menu of goodies that includes select-a-song, with or without lyric subtitles. It’s a hoot. Tempting, too . . . Oh yes, other than English, you can choose Greek subtitles for these lyrics. True!

Like the deleted scenes, with or without commentary, every extra feature has been produced to add to the appreciation of the film itself. This also goes for the remarkable 85 minute Making of Hedwig doco, which traces the genesis of the film to the Squeezebox drag queens’ nightclub in July 1994, where Hedwig was born. Some of the footage is so good you can hardly believe it was genuine, and lots of interview grabs add spice to the doco. It begins with a montage from a press junket, with the media questions laid end to end, without the answers. It’s compelling stuff.

As a fan of the film, I find the DVD a genuine bonus package; it’s also a great journey for anyone who resists the subject but is fascinated by its star. 

Published June 6, 2002

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You can buy it HERE - next day delivery within Australia



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

DIRECTOR: John Cameron Mitchell

RUNNING TIME: 89 minutes

SPECIAL FEATURES: audio commentary, feature length Making of Hedwig, deleted scenes, select-a-song, trailer

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: May 15, 2002

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