Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Film Festival: 'Hedwig and the Angry Inch'

Hedwig and the Angry Inch is something I crave in the way a person might crave a particular food. And while I want to be really clever and scholarly about this film, I can't seem to get past how much I just love it. In fact, Hedwig is one of the few cerebral films that I have just given up on in terms of real analysis.

While I would like to sit here and break the movie down for you—perhaps do a shot-by-shot analysis of a short scene—every time I try to watch it with an analytical eye, I just get swept up all over again in the story, the cinematography, the production design...

There's a lot going on here. Like, a lot a lot. I can't imagine a musical about a East German semi-transgender rock singer (and philosopher) not having a lot going on in it. I'm always seeing new things in Hedwig, falling in love with the "old" things all over again.

Every piece of the film seems to serve its project, down to the casting. Hedwig is played by John Cameron Mitchell who is (as far as I know) a cis-man. Hedwig's current lover, Yitzhak, a supposed former phenomenal drag queen, is played by a (as far as I know) cis-woman, Miriam Shor. In fact, even talking about Hedwig as "transgendered" or Yitzhak as "a drag queen" seems incorrect because of the associations we have with those words. In fact, to even talk about the genders (and sexes) of the characters requires a long narrative full of ifs and thens. This holds up a big, flashing neon sign that says, "Gender is performative!"

Gender in the world of Hedwig is also completely unstable. No one has an "actual" gender. Everyone can—and will—be transformed.

This time, I was especially struck by Yitzhak's transformation—which happens by magic. Hedwig, who has ripped off her drag, hands the blonde wig to Yitzhak, who wears a white suit and bedazzled white bandanna: very drag-king bridal. Yitzhak places the wig on his head and leaps off the stage. The complete physical transformation takes place as he lands in the arms of the crowd.

Feathers and a butterfly!

The wig is magical, but its magic affects everyone differently. Hedwig is never as free with the wig on her head as Yitzhak is.

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4 comments:

Cindy said...

How much do I love this movie?? We saw it in the theatre, fell in love with it, and promptly bought it on DVD when it came out. I always wanted to dress my husband up as Hedwig for Halloween, but knew I could never get the awesome eye makeup right. You need the eye makeup. I used to work in neuroscience and would spend many, many hours behind a microscope, in the dark, counting flourescent cells in brain tissue. Hedwig soundtrack was what I played over and over again while doing it. It made the most boring tasks rock!

Noelle said...

Awesome! I used to listen to the soundtrack while writing parking tickets on my college campus.

Allison the Meep said...

Once again, you have gotten smack into the middle of my grey matter and blogged about it. HOW?

For example, did you know that I was belting out "Midnight Radio" in the shower yesterday and thinking about how this is one of my favorite movies of all time? Probably not. But you have some kind of weird power (perhaps where Westley's faerie lineage stems from?) that taps into my brain a lot lately.

kirida said...

Oh that soundtrack is one of the most beautiful compilations ever. Just lyrically, I am still stunned that one person was able to write all of that. So good!