The Hip Pocket #30: HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH
This one was part of one of my favorite movie days ever
We all have movies we love.
Some of them are great movies. Some of them are terrible movies. Love does not care. Love is unreasonable. Love is blind. We love what we love, and the louder you love it, the better.
One of my favorite things is sharing a film I love with someone. Even if they don't love it the same way I do, that experience imparts something about you to that person. When you share something you love, you are sharing a part of yourself, and there is nothing more vulnerable or personal than that.
I don't think of these movies as the canon or the official library or anything that formal. These are all just movies I keep in my hip pocket, movies I've filed away as part of my own personal ongoing film festival as worthwhile and notable.
This is an ongoing list, one without an ending. This is The Hip Pocket.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch
John Cameron Mitchell, Miriam Shor, Stephen Trask, Theodore Liscinski, Rob Campbell, Michael Aronov, Andrea Martin, Ben Mayer-Goodman, Alberta Watson, Gene Pyrz, Michael Pitt, Karen Hines, Max Toulch, Maurice Dean Wint, Ermes Blarasin, Sook-Yin Lee, Maggie Moore, Renate Options
cinematography by Frank G. DeMarco
music by Stephen Trask
screenplay by John Cameron Mitchell
based on the stage production written by John Cameron Mitchell and Stephen Trask
produced by Pamela Koffler, Katie Roumel & Christine Vachon
directed by John Cameron Mitchell
1 hr 35 mins
A not-quite-famous rock star recounts her tumultuous rise to the middle, her subsequent fall, and the surgical accident that defined her equally turbulent love life.
Have you ever had a perfect movie day?
In 2001, I went to the Sundance Film Festival for the first time. It was a last-minute trip, poorly-planned and underfunded like pretty much everything I ever did for Ain’t It Cool, and when we left from Los Angeles, we weren’t even entirely sure we had press badges waiting for us. I went with Kevin Biegel, the two of us road-tripping it, and I’m glad he was the one I went with. Kevin’s an easy traveling companion, affable, adaptable, and open to whatever happens. I am an inflexible jackass. He definitely helped sand off the rough edges on the trip, allowing us to focus on the movies we were seeing and the parties we talked our way into and all the weird peripheral experiences that are part of a film festival.
I saw a few films before I went and the first day ended with one of the main reasons I was there that year, the midnight premiere of Super Troopers. It was the second day that knocked me absolutely flat, though. In 2001, the set-up for Sundance was different, and we took full advantage of our press badge just sitting in one venue all day long watching whatever was showing. This particular day, we were at the Yarrow for four films back to back, and I started with two documentaries, both by filmmakers whose work I’m still writing about two decades later, and both films felt like big meals, a lot to think about and write about.
When we walked into the third film, I assumed it was going to be a campy sort of comedy romp based on the program notes, a sort of modern Rocky Horror. Instead, I got my skull punched in by John Cameron Mitchell’s debut feature, Hedwig & The Angry Inch. While Mitchell never turned into the presence in film that I thought he’d be, Hedwig remains a ferociously lively first film, and I feel like it establishes Mitchell as a true triple threat as writer, director, and star. The music and lyrics by Stephen Trask are magnificent, like the best early David Bowie/Velvet Underground album never recorded. The film has a look and feel that manages to incorporate decay and sleaze, ultimately creating something really beautiful. The use of animated segments by Emily Hubley (daughter of famed animators John and Faith Hubley) is striking, and it made me wonder how this thing could have existed onstage as a musical. The earliest stagings were minimalist, with slides and an essentially bare stage, but Mitchell’s film is a fully-realized movie, alive with technique. Mitchell seems to have an effortless visual style, strong and specific, and he manages to transport us to a world entirely of his creation.
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