Mystify: Michael Hutchence

 

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A biopic to please admirers of Michael Hutchence and to interest others.

 
 Mystify - Micharel Hutchence 

  

The influence of Asif Kapadia grows apace for here we have yet another documentary which adopts his chosen method of relegating interview material to the soundtrack and thus avoiding the cliché of a film featuring talking heads. Here the director is the Australian Richard Lowenstein who for his subject turns back to the singer Michael Hutchence with whom he made many video shorts. Something of their style is doubtless echoed here given the visual emphasis including use of the split screen but, even so, Mystify: Michael Hutchence is in essence a standard biopic which focuses more on the life in its personal aspects than on the music. Nevertheless it has to be said that the 'Scope format used comes into its own at those moments when we see the size of his audiences.

 

For the most part Lowenstein opts for telling the life-story chronologically but, despite an early reference to an unhappy childhood, it is only late on that we get details about the Hutchence family such as the split up of the parents leading to the mother, Patricia, walking out with Michael and the fact that his bother Rhett eventually needed Michael's help to overcome his drug addiction. In the event Michael's own involvement with drugs is left somewhat vague and the main focus is on the most important of his relationships with women. Central here are Michèle Bennett, Kylie Minogue, Helena Christensen and Paula Yates and many of their comments are detailed. Similarly we hear from managers and musicians recalling the route to his  eventual massive success with INXS, his wish to develop beyond that and the change in his nature after injuries received in Copenhagen in 1992 led to the loss of smell, violent mood swings and depression.

 

We hear many voices yet the insights here are less than one might expect. Hutchence's stunning good looks and immense sex appeal are self-evident, but his assertions of wishing to go beyond being a musical sex god    to become an artist are not elaborated on and his declared interest in the work of noted writers from Goethe to Camus and from Wilde to Cocteau is never investigated (but he is intelligent enough to declare that he is not an intellectual but a man influenced by intellectuals). There is an enormous amount of relevant old footage including some shot by Hutchence himself. However, as a portrayal of someone whose success led to pressures that would prove fatal, this film invites comparison with last year's McQueen, the film about the fashion designer Alexander McQueen. In that film we had a work filled with truly insightful comments, but this film lacks any equivalent depth despite the number of voices heard. Even the eventual breakdown of those key relationships emerge in outline rather than in detail (for example, one voice critical of Paula Yates simply leaves us wondering if the comment is fair or not). Perhaps Lowenstein needed a tighter focus. There's no doubt that Hutchence's fans will find plenty here to appeal, but for others the film will be informative without ever becoming truly revelatory.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Featuring  Michèle Bennett, Kylie Minogue, Helena Christensen, Chris Bailey, Jenny Morris, Bono, Rhett Hutchence, Tina Hutchence, Nick Launay, Tim Farriss, Jin Farriss, Garry Gary Beers.

 

Dir Richard Lowenstein, Pro Maya Gnyp, John Battsek, Sue Murray, Mark Fennessy, Richard Lowenstein, Lynn-Maree Milburn and Andrew de Groot, Screenplay Richard Lowenstein, Ph Andrew de Groot, Ed Richard Lowenstein, Lynn-Maree Milburn and Tayler Martin, Music Warren Ellis.

 

Passion Pictures/Ghost Pictures/ScreenAustralia/BBC/The Australian Broadcasting Corporation/Baird Films/Film Victoria-Dogwoof.
102 mins. Australia/UK. 2019. Rel: 18 October 2019. Cert. 15.