Mystify: Michael Hutchence
Michael Hutchence, Kylie Minogue, Helena Christensen, Michele Bennett, Bono, Chris Murphy, Martha Troup
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…insightful and revealing in ways that most rock docos could only dream of…
Melbourne director, Richard Lowenstein, was a creative and social intimate of Australian rock titans INXS and their charismatic frontman, Michael Hutchence. He directed many of their epochal video clips; put together the feature film, Australian Made, in which they appeared; and cast Hutchence in his sole major big screen role in his 1986 feature film, Dogs In Space. Neither a wide eyed fan, nor a hardened outside observer, Lowenstein’s close proximity to INXS and its late singer gives his documentary, Mystify: Michael Hutchence, an extraordinary sense of intimacy.
This is insightful and revealing in ways that most rock docos could only dream of, with Lowenstein eschewing live concert footage and music critic contribution in favour of detail from those who knew Hutchence best: his bandmates, his family, his girlfriends, and his managers. There’s nobody here from Rolling Stone Magazine blathering on about Hutchence’s stage presence, and no well-trawled collection of TV appearances – Mystify: Michael Hutchence takes the most direct route, and goes right to the heart of the matter.
While INXS’ formation and rise to fame is chronicled in succinct, only-as-necessary fashion, the film’s concentration on Hutchence, the human being, is staggering. A hedonistic aesthete with a deep love of the finer things in life, he was also a profoundly sad figure, with a confused family history and a curious shyness. Via audio interviews (this not a “talking heads” style doco, but rather a more impressionistic meld of sound and image) with pretty much anyone that matters in the Hutchence timeline (including Kylie Minogue, Helena Christensen, Michele Bennett, Bono, Chris Murphy, Martha Troup and many more), a fully rounded portrait emerges. The interviewees are affectionate but often brutally honest, and the depiction of the final months of Hutchence’s life – a swirling crush of child custody battles, paparazzi, and a very public dwindling of fame with INXS – is utterly heartbreaking. The lingering effects of a head injury (caused by a coward punch delivered by a cab driver in Europe) that robbed Hutchence of his sense of smell and taste, and brought on fractious changes in his personality, meanwhile, have never been investigated with such power and clarity. And Lowenstein’s position on Hutchence’s much discussed death is refreshing in its directness and lack of speculation.
A finely crafted, expertly assembled tribute delivered with passion, sensitivity and moving accessibility – but one that never devolves into mere hagiography – Mystify: Michael Hutchence is a wrenching detour past the stage swagger that made Hutchence famous, and into the world of pain that made him tick.