Mystify: Michael Hutchence Review.
The untimely and tragic death of INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence in 1997 scarred Australia and the world. Here was a man, who only a decade earlier, had been the frontman of one of the biggest bands in the world, all over the news for taking his own life.
That very year his existence had become dark thanks to the backdrop of a vile custody dispute with Bob Geldof who was aiming to take his daughter away from him. Richard Lowenstein’s “Mystify: Michael Hutchence” deals with this devastation and so much more in its retelling of the life of Australia’s engrossing enigma.
The most important aspect of this documentary is that it is very much about Hutchence and not totally about INXS, which is the inverse of Australian mini-series “Never Tear Us Apart”. Mainly from the perspective of the women who surrounded him, we follow Hutchence through the critical phases of his life.
From his rise to being the charismatic artist he was known for to the traumatic brain injury he sustained in 1992, all the way to his death, Mystify paints a heartfelt and affectionate portrait of Hutchence that will likely never be topped.
Throughout all the right voices are heard. Every serious girlfriend he had tells of his kindness and love. Hutchence was a good man, yet the film still knows precisely when to condemn him. For his foolishness and his anger, the film admonishes him, not in any harsh manner, more through the personalities speaking pointing out, in their own words, that he usually didn’t and shouldn’t have behaved that way.
His breaking of Kylie Minogue’s heart in 1991 and his violent refusal to not go to the doctors after being assaulted in 1992 stand out as some of his lowest moments before the events of 1997. He also had a tumultuous relationship with his brother Rhett who fell into heroin addiction, a decline that began when Michael knowingly fled with his mother to America in 1976 during their parents’ divorce. Presenting both sides of Hutchence’s chaotic life was imperative, and since Michael isn’t here to tell it himself, the film does the best it can and exceeds even that.
All these moments are mere dots on the vast expanse that was Michael’s 37 years of life. The amount of emotion the film has as a whole is so intense that I was tearing up within minutes of the beginning. There was no escaping the harrowing ending everyone knew was coming, but the in-depth look at the path there inspires empathy, frustration, joy and a sense of deep sadness. There are moments where it feels as if Hutchence is stirring us with his vocals on stage as if still with us.
It is a testament to both the filmmakers and the man himself how captivating Michael still is. The most significant achievement of this magnificent documentary is that it gives us these magical moments with him once again, as fleeting as they are.
Mystify pays homage to its title with how it manages to mystify you with its brilliance. By the end, Michael has come and gone again without missing a beat and as charismatic as ever. All the answers provided don’t make him any less of an endearing personality; they only serve to immortalise him further. This documentary exists because the world misses Michael Hutchence, and it’s as simple as that. Knowing that the many people who still grieve him will have this to watch for a few more moments of his magic is heart-warming and makes this one of my most recommended films of the year.
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