Sex-crazed historian David Allyn sizes up Hedwig and the Angry Inch.
Thursday, August 16, 2001
''Iloved it! Totally loved it," exclaims author David Allyn, enthusiastically snarfing up a few post-film french fries. "I loved the story, loved the music, loved the attitude. And of course I loved that it was about sexuality, and sexual identity--and sex."
We''ve just seen Hedwig and the Angry Inch--the colorfully off-color movie version of the outrageous, underground stage sensation from New York--and Allyn is still high after the experience.
The decidedly non-Hollywood musical stars John Cameron Mitchell as Hedwig, a hard-rocking, trash-talking transsexual band-leader offending her way across America in pursuit of fame, fortune, re-venge and love. The victim of a hideously botched sex-change operation-- thus the "angry inch"--Hedwig believes in Plato''s theory of the origin of love, stylishly illustrated in one of the movie''s best musical numbers. According to Plato, humans were once two-headed, four-armed, four-legged creatures, split apart by Zeus, and thus doomed to wander the world in search of our missing halves. The way we re-connect with that half, assumes Hedwig, is through the act of sex.
It turns out she''s only half-right.
David Allyn admits he''s obsessed with sex.
"I wrote a book about it and everything," points out the New York-based Harvard Ph.D. The book is Make Love, Not War--The Sexual Revolution: An Unfettered History (Routledge, $18.95), and it is a testament to Allyn''s extroverted obsessiveness that the exuberantly detailed volume, a terrific chronicle of the social and sexual upheavals of the ''60s and ''70s, is almost impossible to put down.
So a film like Hedwig, to state the obvious, is right up Allyn''s alley.
"I especially loved the stuff at the women''s music festival," he says, referring to a scene where Hedwig and her band are shown performing their edgy hearts out--for an audience of one.
"There''s a whole history to that," Allyn explains. "In the ''80s, there were all of these feminist, back-to-nature folk festivals that transsexuals suddenly started playing at--and it caused this huge crisis in feminism. This one feminist, Janice G. Raymond, was really upset about it, and wrote this book, Transsexual Empire. She said that transsexuality was a male plot to subvert the feminist movement. I think that scene in Hedwig was an allusion to that."
Hedwig, no doubt, would approve.
"Actually, I''ve never understood why there isn''t a bigger genre of gay music," he continues. "Homosexuality has so influenced painting and sculpture and writing and playwriting--all of the arts. But in music, it''s so absent. Where are all the songs about being gay? You''d think there would be those songs, because being gay can be such a painful experience. It''s such an emotionally rich and powerful subject, full of love and heartbreak and drama--there''s so much to sing about."
Like Rocky Horror Picture Show in the ''70s, Allyn predicts that Hedwig could become the big underground film that teenagers flock to see; memorizing all the songs; identifying with the characters; worrying their parents. But should kids be really allowed to see it? Allyn says yes, recalling that such films and idea were firmly kept away from him as a curious adolescent.
"And look at me now," he says. "I became totally obsessed with sex. If I''d been allowed to see movies like Hedwig, I might be an accountant today."
Hedwig and the Angry Inch... (* * * 1/2)Rated: R, 95 min.
Directed by: John Cameron Mitchell
Starring: John Cameron Mitchell, Michael Pitt, Miriam Shor, Stephen Trask, Theodore Liscinski, Rob Campbell, Michael Aronov, Andrea Martin
Where: Osio Plaza
When: See Movie Times