Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

Candied darling

Meet Hedwig, a transsexual East German rock star on a tour of the American Midwest’s tackiest chain-restaurants. Standing by the salad bar in forlorn eateries off the freeway, Hedwig regales open-mouthed punters with autobiographical ditties about “her” botched sex-change operation, the sugar-daddy sergeant she married in Berlin and her theory that human beings were just one sex until a vengeful god split them in two. For an encore, this “internationally ignored song stylist” launches into bitter attacks on the successful young rocker she claims has stolen all her best tunes. Some of the diners respond with polite, timid applause. Others try to beat her up.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch is the labour of love of John Cameron Mitchell (the film’s writer, director and star): it has been converted from its original incarnation as an off-Broadway stage show and makes the most of a thrift-shop budget. It’s a picture in candied fragments. The musical interludes unlock flashbacks from a Cold War childhood spent listening to Lou Reed and Stooges records on Armed Forces Radio. Later, we revisit Hedwig’s love affair with Tommy (Michael Pitt), a gauche Kansas City teen who strums guitar in the church band. Tommy, it transpires, will eventually play the role of Judas to her glam-rock messiah.

Like Hedwig, Mitchell’s film can be a noisy, attention-seeking tart at times. Like Hedwig, its uncompromising abandon soon wins you over. I liked this a lot. It’s the sort of stack-heeled walk on the wild side that Todd Haynes’s Velvet Goldmine should have been and yet never quite was; a posturing film glamour that’s at once funny and sad, brash and sensitive. There’s real depth behind its painted facade.

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them.

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

First-of-its-kind rangeland atlas pushes for protection

Rangelands are ‘nature’s gift to humanity’, but have been overlooked, neglected

The health minister is on the ropes for dodgy vibes...

Mkhize’s request to take special leave left President Cyril Ramaphosa reeling, party insiders say

More top stories

First-of-its-kind rangeland atlas pushes for protection

Rangelands are ‘nature’s gift to humanity’, but have been overlooked, neglected

Verena C still collects water from a stream after projects...

Residents of Verena C in Mpumalanga have to collect water from a polluted stream after projects costing millions of rands failed

The health minister is on the ropes for dodgy vibes...

Mkhize’s request to take special leave left President Cyril Ramaphosa reeling, party insiders say

State halts its R10bn long-term plan to fully treat acid...

The state is saddled with the burden of treating acid water and polluters are escaping the responsibility
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×