Hedwig comes to townby Euan Kerr, Minnesota Public Radio
A local producer is launching a new interactive movie program in the Twin Cities, and as a result, Hedwig is coming to town. Later this week the creator, star and director of the cult film "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" will appear as the first guest of "The Talkies" at the Heights Theater in Columbia Heights.
St. Paul, Minn. — The Talkies is the brainchild of self-described renegade programmer Tim Massett. He said the Talkies take the idea behind a director's commentary on a DVD and supercharges it. He screens a cult film and then has the director sit in an armchair on stage and talk as it plays.
"First, getting to see the film the way it was meant to be seen on 35 mm in a movie theater," Massett said. "And then on top of that to bring in the films creator unmoderated to freely skip on down memory lane regarding the making of the picture."
The first show on Thursday is with John Cameron Mitchell, the creator of Hedwig, the East German rock star who's a victim of a botched sex change operation. She brings her larger than life show to the U.S. and tries to make it big in the Midwest.
Since its release in 2001, the film has become a cult favorite.
"I think people just keep finding new things every time they see it," Mitchell said.
Speaking from his home in New York, Mitchell credits Hedwig's long gestation as a stage show before becoming a movie for giving it depth and accessibility. He said people often tell him it changed their lives.
"My favorite is someone said it helped them get off heroin. I'm not sure how," he said. "But it has this self-empowerment message, this sort of seeking an inner unity that is an interpretation of the Plato myth about the origin of love which is at the center of our story, that seems to resonate across cultures."
"Hedwig and the Angry Inch" cost just $6 million to make and has found audiences all over the world.
Mitchell said something about the way Hedwig is caught, between genders, between East and West Germany, between wanting to be a rebel, but also wanting security appeals to certain people.
"I also like the fact it's sometimes a litmus test," he said. "People say 'Oh when I am starting to date someone I show them the film, and if they don't like it I don't go on a second date.'"
Mitchell said he hopes there will be a number of people out on Valentines dates in the audience at the Heights on Thursday, as it will just make things even more interesting.
John Cameron Mitchell is an iconoclast. He refuses to compromise on certain things and has only made one film since Hedwig, the controversial "Shortbus."
He used an ensemble cast of amateur actors to play the patrons at a New York social club where people go to meet and sometimes have sex. The film was controversial because of its graphic content. He said the subject matter scared away big name actors, which he ultimately found was a relief.
"And although I am sure I will work in that environment, and I'll work with stars at some point, it'll have to be on my terms," he said. "It has to be script that resonates for me but in an environment where I don't feel I am being forced to do something that's wrong for the piece."
While Mitchell may not be comfortable with Hollywood, he'll be in his element at the Heights talking about Hedwig.
"It's going to be really interesting," he said. "Obviously I've talked about the film a lot and I have a million stories, so I'm going to have a glass of wine before and let it rip."
But when asked what he hopes will come out of Thursday night's running commentary, John Cameron Mitchell gives a surprising answer.
"It just makes me feel less alone," he said. "You know, that's really our goal in life, just to feel less alone, or maybe less lonely. I like being alone sometimes. There's something just beautiful about a group of people who are mostly strangers in a room feeling the same feelings."
In addition to the people on Thursday night, there will be an added treat. The organist at the Heights is adapting some of the Hedwig songs to play on the theater's Wurlitzer. There may even be a sing-along.
Talkies organizer Tim Massett is already lining up other guests, with the aim of having four events a year. He's currently setting up two art cinemas in Duluth and may expand the Talkies to a two night event, with one evening in the Twin Cities and the next in the Twin Ports.
- All Things Considered, 02/03/2009, 5:54 p.m.