Richard Lowenstein (director)
18 October 2019 (released)
17 October 2019
What we can glean from Mystify, is that Michael Hutchence was always a complicated man. The added pressures of being in INXS, one of the late 80s, early 90’s biggest bands, both fulfilled and caged him. Being a full-blown rock star seems to have satisfied him on a superficial level but it also created perceptions and expectations of him that he struggled to shake as he searched for creative freedom.
Richard Lowenstein’s film is fairly conventional in its construction with offscreen interviews with the band, family, lovers and others plus plenty of footage of Hutchence himself over his career. The coup here is that Lowenstein has managed to get all the major players in Hutchence’s life to speak candidly so building a comprehensive portrait of the man. Not to mention copious archive family and band footage.
So we are taken through childhood, the early days of the endless tours of Australia, through the mega-selling albums and stadia. In parallel we get personal takes on his major relationships. The eye will be drawn to the time he spent with Kylie Minogue a person whom he had true synergy with being in the same industry and that they were a tour manger's nightmare as they tried to sync their meetings. That it failed devastated and mystified Minogue at the same time.
There’s a shift back in time midway through the film when the focus turns back to his childhood and when Michael was taken by his mother to Los Angeles leaving his younger brother Rhett distraught. He returned a different person but carried the guilt of that favouritism for the rest of his life.
The film takes another turn when (now with Helena Christensen) he is attacked in Copenhagen and left with life-long injuries. These fundamentally changed his life and character affecting everyone else’s around him. (He kept the precise details of the injury secret, and weren’t revealed until after his death.) His attitude to his bandmates, friends and lovers changed, which led to an increase in drugs both legal and not.
The notorious Paula Yates period that was crucially a high and a low for him is sensitively covered up until the tragic end, which is handled with dubious taste.
The documentary does pretty much what it sets out to do and attempts to get to the core of an essentially shy, slightly pretentious man who lived the dream. It’s a trifle long and there is a point during the film when you wonder if we are just going to get a rundown of Michael Hutchence’s loves and partners as they turn up, stay and fall apart after some years.
INXS fans may know quite a lot of this already but there’s plenty here that is clearly personal and archival that won’t have been seen before. Whether there’s that much to draw in non-fans and the casual movie goer is harder to tell.