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Art Review: Hedwig and the Angry Inch and DirtyFilthySexy

11 December 19 words: Caroline Barry

As if it’s been almost 20 years since the release of Hedwig and the Angry Inch...

I can still remember the lasting effect viewing this film as a deeply closeted lesbian drag queen in training. I wanted to wear glitter, be punk, German and most importantly, I wanted to work in make-up.

While I never quite got to be German (any day now!) and I do occasionally dabble in the shiny stuff, the film still holds a special place for me. I think all of us, those who are my age at least, who are queer or transgender connect with characters in books and films first. We learn to recognise these characters as ‘other’ before we have the terminology to define what this ‘other’ is.

I had to smile at how far I have come though.

On a wet and cold Wednesday night at Nottingham Contemporary, I was sitting peacefully enjoying the live drag performance along with my girlfriend. I am happy, proud and sadly, glitter free.

So what is a Hedwig or an angry inch?

Hedwig Robinson, an East German gender-queer rock star falls for Tommy Speck, a young musician who steals her songs.  She pursues him on tour while telling the story of her arrival in the US fleeing a divided Germany in the 1980s. It’s a cult classic, witty and irreverent classic that deals with gender, love, transformation and rebirth. It’s a punk queer kid’s alternative musical if Grease is too sickly for your stomach.

The screening is just one of many as part of Contemporary’s live cinema happenings which have included screenings of Hairspray, Cabaret and Grease. Their season, Sway explores the often overlooked and frequently subversive world of musicals where love, hate, sex and politics are played out through song, music and dance.

This screening was a little different with a live drag-a-long performance from Nottingham treasures, DirtyFilthySexy who provided an amusing, alternative and thoughtful take on the songs.  Locally based make up brand Depixym proved a play station with their colourful tubes of brightly coloured cosmetics.

For their next event, Contemporary head back to Germany in the aftermath of the first World War with The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. A quintessential German Expressionist film masterpiece. A collection of distorted sets, sinister shadows and unnerving characters by Robert Wiene that serve to create a paranoid and unreal world set in a desperate time in Europe. All this set to a reworked score by Minima for the 100th anniversary of this unusual film.

The next film screening at Nottingham Contemporary is The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari with Live Film Score by Minima, on Saturday 11 January.

Nottingham Contemporary website

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