×

Film Review: ‘Mystify: Michael Hutchence’

Director:
Richard Lowenstein
With:
Michael Hutchence.

Running time: 108 MIN.

Official Site: https://www.facebook.com/mystifymh/

“Mystify” — a portrayal of charismatic INXS singer Michael Hutchence, who committed suicide in 1997 at the age of 37 — makes powerful use of family and personal footage to tell the story of a talented man beset by personal demons, but illuminates the influence of a serious head injury that he hid from the public. The doc premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on Thursday night.

Voiceovers from Hutchence’s intimates — family members, INXS bandmates, record producers, managers and girlfriends — along with press interviews, concert footage and home videos, give context to the unexpectedly intimate film. The singer is seen with former girlfriends like singer Kylie Minogue (their relationship gave Hutchence his first taste of tabloid fame) and model Helena Christensen on personal trips on the Orient Express, at beaches and decadent parties in France. More everyday scenes from holidays and other occasions — in the family kitchen with his mother, with his younger brother Rhett — round out the portrait.

In a Q&A following the screening, Australian director Richard Lowenstein, a long-time collaborator of the group’s, acknowledged that the film took some 18 months to edit. He also addressed the choice not to have his interview subjects on camera: “Michael’s really the only talking head in the film. I wanted to immerse viewers in a time capsule,” Lowenstein said, explaining that showing modern interviews would interrupt the ‘80s-‘90s time frame in the documentary.

The film centers around the group’s commercial peak, 1987’s “Kick” — which spawned the hit singles “New Sensation,” “Devil Inside” and “Need You Tonight” — and shows how Hutchence’s powerful voice and songwriting talent were often overlooked due to his pop-idol looks and the group’s upbeat musical stylings.

However, despite his commercial success, Hutchence’s personal life began to spiral amid his destructive and increasingly desperate relationship with Bob Geldof’s then-wife, Paula Yates. It was seemingly the stress and anguish of child-custody trouble — aggravated by drugs found in the London house he and Yates shared with her daughters with Geldof and her child with Hutchence, Tiger Lily — that contributed to his suicide by hanging in a Sydney hotel room. The use of a countdown timeline for his last day lends a harrowing closeness to Hutchence’s rising panic as things go wrong back in London while he’s in Autstralia, and he reaches out to friends with mounting desperation.

However, the film also shows that the sensationalist media reports around his suicide — which was speculated by the tabloids to be “auto-erotic asphyxiation” — may have singled out just one contributing factor. A key turning point in the singer’s life was a 1992 accident that he carefully hid. Out bicycling with Christensen, the pair had stopped for a slice of pizza, which Hutchence was eating in the street. An irate taxi driver shoved the singer and he fell, hitting his head on the curb. Christensen — who, like many other close friends, waited for many years for a comfortable forum to tell their stories — remembers blood leaking from Hutchence’s ears as he lay unconscious in the street. Hutchence woke up in the hospital, and angry and combative, refused to be treated. Nearly immediately, his underlying depression worsened, his rage increased, his memory worsened, and it’s eventually revealed via MRIs that Hutchence’s brain injury had also caused him to lose his sense of smell. All his intimates noticed his increased aggression; his bandmates recall a longtime mate who had lost his sense of self.

The information brought to light in “Mystify” makes it seem likely that Hutchence’s suicide was exacerbated by his brain injury, and possibly Prozac and other prescription drugs found in his system. Equally tragic, although not covered in “Mystify,” was the fate of others after his death: In 2000, Yates died of a heroin overdose at the age of 41, leaving Hutchence’s beloved daughter an orphan at the age of 4; she was then adopted by Geldof and raised with her half-sisters. And while “Mystify” in many ways amplifies the tragedy of Hutchence’s death, it also goes a long way toward explaining and humanizing it.

 

Film Review: ‘Mystify: Michael Hutchence'

Reviewed at Tribeca Film Festival, April 25, 2019. Running time: 108 MIN.

Production: (Documentary) A BBC (in U.K.) release of an Australian Broadcasting Corp., Ghost Pictures production. (Int'l sales: Dogwoof Ltd., London.) Producers: Maya Gnyp, John Battsek, Sue Murray, Mark Fennessy, Richard Lowenstein, Lynn-Maree Milburn, Andrew de Groot. Executive producers: Maiken Baird, Domenico Procacci, Mandy Chang, Shaun Miller. Co-producer: Michael Hamlyn.

Crew: Director, writer: Richard Lowenstein. Camera (color): Andrew de Groot. Editors: Richard Lowenstein, Lynne-Maree Milburn, Tayler Martin. Music: Warren Ellis.

Cast: Michael Hutchence.

More Music

  • The Eddy

    'The Eddy': TV Review

    “Jazz is Paris and Paris is jazz,” spoke-sang Malcolm McLaren a quarter-century ago, though the statement is valid as ever today: Since the end of World War I, when a number of African American soldiers settled in Paris — and still others left their music behind — the city has become a kind of world [...]

  • GREEN DAY

    Green Day Cancels Tour Dates in Asia Due to Coronavirus

    Green Day has canceled scheduled tour dates in Asia due to the coronavirus epidemic. The band’s Hella Mega tour would have taken them throughout the continent in March — and in countries with confirmed cases of the virus — starting in Singapore and stopping in Bangkok, Manila, Taipei, Hong Kong, Seoul, Osaka and Tokyo. The [...]

  • Beyonce Kobe Bryant Performance

    Ken Ehrlich on the Kobe Bryant Memorial Service's 'Transcendent' Music Moments

    Ken Ehrlich produced his final Grammy telecast Jan. 26 … and, through the sad fluke of Kobe Bryant dying the day of the show, there was a direct segue to the first live broadcast of Ehrlich’s post-Grammys career, when his company was asked to assist with the Kobe Bryant memorial Feb. 24. The veteran is [...]

  • Editorial use only. Hand Out HANDOUT

    BTS Cancels Korea Concerts Due to Coronavirus

    BTS has canceled concerts planned for Korea, the group announced on Thursday, Feb. 27, due to concerns about the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. According to a post on an official BTS Twitter (@bts_bighit), “Map of the Soul” tour shows scheduled for April 11, 12, 18 and 19 at Seoul’s Jamsil Olympic Stadium have been called off, [...]

  • La Vita Nuova album Christine and

    Christine and the Queens' 'La Vita Nuova': EP Review

    With stellar albums from Charli XCX, Caroline Polachek, Selena Gomez and Grimes over the past few months, it’s been a hot stretch for the genre inaccurately but conveniently labelled “alt-pop” — and joining the group is this surprise release from France’s Christine and the Queens, who recently collaborated with two of the above artists. Her [...]

  • Former C3 Promoter Charlie Jones Launches

    Former C3 Promoter Charlie Jones Launches Four Leaf Productions

    Charlie Jones, a veteran producer who has worked extensively on the Lollapalooza and the Austin City Limits festivals, is today officially launching his new venture, Four Leaf Productions, which is described as “a new company built on a foundation of creating live experiences that bring people together for a purpose.” Over the course of his [...]

  • Radio Placeholder

    Veteran KROQ Program Director Kevin Weatherly Exits Entercom

    Kevin Weatherly, who made his mark at L.A.’s leading alternative station KROQ and has been a renowned radio programmer for nearly three decades, is leaving his post as SVP programming at Entercom for a reported new post at Spotify, which a source suggests will likely be in an editorial capacity. Weatherly originally joined KROQ as [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content