“Mystify: Michael Hutchence”, showcases the life of musician and singer-songwriter Michael Hutchence, the lead vocalist of one of the great rock bands INXS. A band coming out of Australia, Michael Hutchence had everything to be the next big rock god. He had the looks, the hair, the voice, the supermodel girlfriends, villas in Provence and amounts of talent. At the height of his renowned career, a literal sudden blow to the head robbed the rock star of his most cherished senses. A series of personal battles followed for years, until all coming to an end with his death at the age of 37, the night before embarking on a world tour. “Mystify” shows us rare archival footage, outtakes, private home video and audio commentary provided by friends, ex-lovers, band members, record producers and family. It’s an engrossing and poignant light on a life and career cut short by tragedy. “Mystify” is a film that’s as beautiful as the talent of the subject himself.
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Australian singer and songwriter Michael Hutchence was the “New Sensation” and had everything to be the next big rock god. He was a sex symbol to billions of women and to the point that men wanted to be him. He had the looks, the hair, the voice the supermodel girlfriends, villas in Provence and amounts of talent. He was a force to be reckoned with and Hutchence had to watch it all “Disappear” right before him.
“Mystify” is an intimate portrait of the late INXS singer, who took his own life in 1997, at age 37. “Mystify” is both a tribute to who is arguably both Australia and America’s most charismatic rock star, who kept a level-headed examination of celebrity. Although INXS sold millions of records, Hutchence only became a tabloid headline-grabber, not because he was a bad boy who constantly got in trouble. It was because of his famous girlfriends like fellow: Aussie pop singer Kylie Minogue, supermodel Helena Christensen and music producer Bob Geldof’s ex-wife Paula Yates.
In fact he was a thoughtful, home loving man, more likely to have his nose in a book of poet Baudelaire’s works, than a mound of coke. Director Richard Lowenstein, a longtime INXS associate, delivers a documentary that frames Hutchence as a driven musician with a rarely seen humble, self-effacing side. With Lowenstein being apart of the INXS family, it helps to allow the film full access to the archives of both the band and Hutchence as a person.
“Mystify” is born out by a wealth of family home movies which, like the more usual concert and TV footage, is accompanied by insightful voiceover reminiscences from friends and colleagues. The ending is tragic, but the film never loses sight of his creative triumphs of a man and artist who, was often overlooked by music critics, but attracted legions of devoted fans. This tribute on the life of Hutchence is simply long overdue. Lowenstein leaves no stone unturned, bringing to the forefront events which felt glided over back when he was still alive and celebrates an artist who feels like he wasn’t celebrated when he had died.
During the ‘80s and ‘90s INXS had hit after hit. “Listen Like Thieves”, “Kick” and “X”, sold millions of records, while hit singles like “Disappear”, “Suicide Blonde”, “Need You Tonight” and “New Sensation”, among many others, we’re chart toppers and still played today across radio, tv and movies. As INXS had more success and the bigger they got, the more Hutchence was plagued by self doubt, always feeling he wasn’t as talented as people knew he was.
An altercation in Copenhagen would be the tipping point for him, that had completely changed his life and sent him on a downward spiral. The effects of the altercation caused, Hutchence’s entire disposition to change. The sunny, cheerful and very likeable man he had been, became morose, moody, violent and unpredictable. His violent behavior was much like that of Dr Jerkell and Mr Hyde, as it would come and go without notice.
It didn’t help that his self doubt was further compromised at an award show. Where an obnoxious Noel Gallagher of Oasis’ gave a speech, featuring an unforgivable put-down of Hutchence as he stood only a few steps away. It’s particularly upsetting to witness what had happened to Hutchence and what would undoubtedly be a contributor to his furthering depression.
His behavior and depression continued, as he had on going battles with his ex-wife over the custody of his kids. It only further pushed him to the brink, to where he just couldn’t take it all anymore, and ultimately causing his death. The wild thing is no one knew why he acted out the way he did, as this was not a side to him seen before the accident had occurred. He lived with his secret and told no one until it was revealed to the public and his family in his autopsy years later.
“Mystify” is a meticulously constructed portrait of a man who belongs in the same company as Mick Jagger, Jim Morrison, and Robert Plant. He became a worldwide star but ended up being unable to cope with his fame and becoming a completely different person after an act of road rage. ”Mystify” becomes an unannounced film about the tragedy and the horror of head injuries and the still little understood and subtle damage they can wreak. Along with Michelle Obama’s documentary “Becoming” and “Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson & The Band”, Lowenstein’s film “Mystify” is also making the list of best films I’ve seen this year. It’s a great year for documentaries.
At some point in the film Hutchence is asked to name his biggest fear in life?. He replies “I think to be without at least one love in your life. Someone to love you” and “Mystify” is proof that Hutchence was and is, very much loved and missed.
GRADE: ★★★★1/2☆ (4 & 1/2 out of 5)