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  Mystify: Michael Hutchence Confessions Of A Rock Star
Year: 2019
Director: Richard Lowenstein
Stars: Michael Hutchence, Helena Christensen, Kylie Minogue, Bono, Paula Yates, Bob Geldof, various
Genre: DocumentaryBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: For a while in the late nineteen-eighties, the Australian rock band INXS were one of the biggest on the planet, and a lot of that appeal was down to their charismatic frontman Michael Hutchence (1960-1997). He had sung in a punk band with his fellow musicians, and was close to Andrew Farriss, the main songwriter, but they would go from lowly beginnings to be that notable entertainment phenomenon, an Aussie music sensation, which not only gave them adulation to enjoy, but a lot of pressure as well. Michael had had a troubled upbringing for various complex reasons, but the fame seemed to provide succour as he wanted to be loved: it sounds like a cliché, but here it was true...

If you remember the scandal that occurred when Michael Hutchence cut his hair very short, or recall being surprised when you learned that his band were not pronounced "inks", as in more than one ink, but were actually In-Excess, then you would be the right age to appreciate this documentary from Richard Lowenstein, friend of the group and helmer of many of their best videos, including the most popular ones that would populate MTV and the music channels at the height of their success. But Mystify, despite being named after one of their songs, was not really about their musical achievements, indeed for a lot of this they were by the by in comparison to their showbiz impact.

The focus was on Hutchence, so we had his background pored over in great detail, which was revealing but told you little more than he was a complicated man, more so than his typical leather trousered rock star image would have superficially indicated. There was a sense of making up for a lot with this, not simply the way he was raked over the coals by the tabloid press, but for all those critics and sniffy music fans who underestimated INXS as a bunch of U2 wannabes from Down Under, for a start INXS were not necessarily as pretentious as that implied, and besides, it was not as if they did not have the tunes that connected with a mass audience, they did sell millions of records.

Maybe it was a snobbery that this bunch of Aussies should have dared to impose themselves on global culture, maybe it was a suspicion that girls liked the band because of Michael's sexual attraction - that often brings out the worst in the often-male tastemakers - but from this you could understand why no matter how many units they shifted, Hutchence would have a problem with his confidence. Yet that sensitivity is common to many of those who exist in the music world, and does not always result in the tragic circumstances that brought his life to an end, so what this documentary tried to do, as is usually the case in the aftermath of a suicide, is to work out the whys and wherefores, and Lowenstein settled on a little-publicised brain injury as the blame, when Michael was attacked in the street while out with Danish supermodel girlfriend Helena Christensen.

Although he downplayed the effects of this injury, it was clear from this account that it affected him deeply and changed his personality for the worse, making him more aggressive, moody and self-destructive. This is all from the benefit of hindsight, but you could see Lowenstein had a point, from all the interviews he had amassed (only heard in voiceover over an abundance of footage), and while Hutchence had coped with his demons before, post-the attack he was struggling. We heard from all his exes, including Kylie Minogue who still sounds baffled as to why they split up, only Paula Yates, the woman he had his only child with, is heard in archive as she had died not too long after he did. There was no mention of her ghastly campaign to get his cause of death changed to autoerotic asphyxiation, and rightly so as the evidence was overwhelming that depression had overtaken him when it became obvious he would be separated from his beloved baby daughter, a desperately sad situation the gutter press exploited for all it was worth. They are not accused directly, but seem complicit in his demise, which is what we were left with, a terrible waste.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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