Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.
Today’s mainstream-pop misfits should give due credit to John Cameron Mitchell.
His Hedwig Robinson, a bisexual transgender German immigrant, had a suitcase of hoot-owl wigs and rabid-raccoon makeup, haute couture to make Lady Gaga go wa-wa and onstage sexuality so overt it makes Adam Lambert look like Clay Aiken.
Director / co-writer / star Mitchell’s brainchild stood at the center of 2001’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch — a ball of gender confusion, Biblical allegories and Eastern European politics.
One of those would be a tricky subtext for a 90-minute rock opera. But Mitchell and Stephen Trask’s songs married Jim Steinman’s grandeur to the Stooges’ spit and sweat, and the script (adapted from their stage production) deftly and tenderly tackled how music forms identity and independence, but also power and ruin.
Hedwig (Mitchell) has penned a plethora of hits … swiped by former lover and current rock god Tommy Gnosis (Michael Pitt). Hedwig recounts the road to America and follows Tommy’s tour to seek proper credit.
Hedwig is not without brazen sight gags: a glam Shroud of Turin; gigs behind the salad bars of chain restaurants; and the “Menses Fair’s 9th stage” near a Stonehenge of port-a-potties.
But cut-and-paste animation interludes know the primitive pull of pop ballads (the aching “Wicked Little Town” is Hedwig’s own), and Mitchell’s transfixing transsexual performance reveals regret and yearning behind the sass and snarls.
For all its sexual and emotional excesses, Hedwig neither set out to shock nor settled for compromise as anything but the Zeroes’ brashest, boldest musical.