The film version of John Cameron-Mitchell's glam-rock stage musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch was little-seen even by art-house standards during its original release in 2001 and today appears to be spawning one of those adorable/annoying cults of the Rocky Horror variety. But for those lucky few who saw and truly responded to this singular and electrifying picture, the (genital) warts-and-all documentary Whether You Like It or Not: The Story of Hedwigis purest gold.
We learn all about the peculiar genesis of the film's hapless, transsexual, would-be rock superstar heroine; get examples of Mitchell honing the character as he takes her from truly pitiful gigs in New York's drag-club scene to her illustrious debut on the silver screen; and see a selection of other performers in the role—including former brat-packer Ally Sheedy. As we are introduced to Cameron-Mitchell, we come to see that despite his claims the character is inspired by a baby sitter he had during his childhood stay in Berlin, there's something more than a little Hedwig-like in his own mix of sharp honesty, fast wit, emotional fragility and occasional bitchiness.
For his next picture, Cameron-Mitchell is apparently planning a mix of Cassavetes-style improvised drama and hardcore pornography, a film that mixes tears and money shots like none have before. Whether the project is an instant classic or a fiasco, with Hedwig, he has already given us one of cinema's rawest, most naked and affecting characters.
Whether You Like It or Not: The Story of Hedwig screens as part of the Newport Beach Film Festival at Edwards Island Cinemas, 999 Newport Center Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 253-2880; www.newportbeachfilmfest.com. Tues., 11 a.m. $8.