There’s something lonely about the way we watch movies these days, with everyone bunkering at home in front of their recession-discounted HDTVs. Gimmicks like Blu-Ray My Chat are bringing social networking to the housebound movie nut, but as a portal to deconstruct that heady masterpiece The Bourne Ultimatum ? Really now, I think we need to get out more.
Here’s something worthy of a trip: live director commentaries. Watch the movie with its director in a proper movie theater and with a crowd of equally obsessive fans—basically a DVD/Blu-Ray commentary track, except the director comes to you and you get to talk back. Florida transplant Tim Masset calls these freewheeling events The Talkies, and he has organized ones with John Waters, George Romero, and Herschell Gordon Lewis. Last night he brought John Cameron Mitchell to The Heights Theatre to do play-by-play of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the Plato-quoting tranny rock musical Mitchell created, wrote, directed, and starred in off-Broadway and then eight years ago made into an unexpectedly fabulous film.
Hedwig already has a studio-sanctioned director’s commentary that Mitchell and his cinematographer recorded for the 2001 DVD release. But their ninety minutes of shoptalk was a weirdly buttoned-up companion to the film, which (for those who need a refresher) follows an East Berlin girly boy who survives a botched sex change operation and ends up singing in a chain of cheap seafood restaurants and stalking the closeted rock star who stole her songs and her heart.
Maybe Mitchell just needed to be unleashed in front of a crowd of worshipful Hed-heads to turn in a commentary performance worthy of his dazzling Hedwig. Hoarse and popping throat lozenges, he presided over the night with bawdy one-liners and audience participation (a Hedwig “car wash” for an unlucky guy in the front row). He posed for pictures with a fifteen-year-old girl who confessed she wrote Mitchell a fan letter when she was in the second grade, and invited to the microphone an Eau Claire man who is playing Hedwig in an upcoming show and looking for tips.
With the movie still screening above his head, Mitchell’s conversation veered to Shortbus (his raunchy second film, which his mom and dad still haven’t seen), why he hates Madonna (he blames a dust-up between his drag artist friend Justin Bond and R & B singer D’Angelo), and an assessment of his cabinmates on his flight into Minneapolis (“cute Midwestern moms who all looked like lesbians but were really just Swedish”).
If you stayed home because you thought all this good stuff was already on your DVD, here’s some other trivia you missed:
• Minneapolis-born actress Miriam Shor, who plays Yitzhak (Hedwig’s Croatian husband and backup-singer), is that miracle of actors, says Mitchell: a bad singer cast to play a good singer who nailed all the right notes.
• The role of Hedwig’s manager, played in the film by SCTV ’s Andrea Martin, was originally written for Madeline Kahn. And James Franco was in the running for the part of Hedwig’s lover-nemesis, Tommy Gnosis.
• The secret to Hedwig’s perfectly glittery lips: Cookie Puss Liquid Sparkle.
• Mitchell’s favorite scene: Hedwig and her Angry Inch band play to a crowd-of-one at an outdoor women’s music festival named Menses Fair.
• Favorite item in Hedwig’s wardrobe: “the hair dress” she wears when she literally brings down the walls of her Kansas trailer singing “Wig in a Box.” Check it out: