MYSTIFY: MICHAEL HUTCHENCE
Starring: Michael Hutchence, Kylie Minogue, Helena Christensen, Paula Yates, Bono
Directed by: Richard Lowenstein
Written by: Richard Lowenstein
Music documentaries are low-key some of my favorite documentaries of all time (my first favorite kind of documentaries are true crimes, but I feel like you could guess that already). In music documentaries, it feels alive. Through the sights and sounds of a genius band, you get to experience the inner workings, pit-stops, and falls of the band. You get to see the creative parts weave together in harmony. For Mystify: Michael Hutchence, we get to see the inner thoughts of a man who was loved by all, but secretive to most. Hutchence was a creative genius that was an underground darling with massive success, but with relationships and situations that ultimately destroyed him.
Mystify: Michael Hutchence tells the story of Michael Hutchence, better known as the lead singer of the Australian band INXS. Mystify shows the beginning of Michael’s career with INXS, his own solo album, and his relationships with family and friends. All of this is told through voiceovers of his loved ones mixed with on-tour footage and diaries shot by Hutchence himself, music videos, and other personal and news footage.
Michael Hutchence has always been this wild enigma in music for a long time. We think we know who he was and what he was about, but all musicians are MUCH deeper than that. Look at figures like Kurt Cobain or Amy Winehouse. There’s so much brewing beneath the surface. We’re lucky if we even get a peek of what’s going on in their brains.
That said, Hutchence being a subject was the best part of this film. Seeing Hutchence through footage was not only emotional but inspiring as well. There’s so much that we didn’t know about him, but seeing his footage was such a good way to tell who he was and what he was about. It’s incredible to see how much he documented throughout his time in the band. The other captivating thing is his connection to the music and the pathways and hurdles he went through to keep being himself.
Mystify is noteworthy for old or new fans of the singer or INXS. As a long time listener to the band, I honestly didn’t know much about them, but this documentary gave new information that I didn’t know. For example, I didn’t realize that he had suffered a massive brain injury that lead up to his suicide. I didn’t know he was in a relationship with Kylie Minogue! It was little things like that that kept my attention and will keep yours as a fan or casual viewer.
The subject of this documentary was everything you could hope for. You do learn more about him — the struggles, the depression, the relationship, the music — but the execution of all of this material could have been SO much more than what it was.
Mystify tries hard to give you a lot of missing information about Michael Hutchence the best way they know how. It seeks to create a narrative of events that lead up to his suicide in 2012. However, this story isn’t structured as “this happened, then this, and then this.” It’s a bit messy in its execution and needed something extra to push it. The way this film was built felt like they had TOO much information and not enough structure to swing it together. There was too much information that wasn’t in a linear fashion. I understand why most of it was that way (especially in regards to the stuff with his brother, Rhett). It still felt so scattered except for the relationships.
The one thing that really set this documentary apart for me was the voiceover used throughout. I’m a fan of documentaries, especially about musicians, letting the music and their voice take over. However, I was not a fan of this particular type of voiceover. There were highlights and spotlights, especially involving the INXS crew and his partners, that I wish we got faces for.
Talking heads will not make or break you, but hearing these people share their experiences was something different than seeing them share their experiences. You can get so much through a voice, but you can get way more through a face. At one point, I closed my eyes. Not because I was tired. I wanted to see if I would get the same experience out of just listening to it. This could EASILY have been a podcast if it was allowed to be with the audio. Visually, I would have loved to SEE people talk about Michael Hutchence. To see them talk about who they were to him and what he made them feel. I would have loved to SEE his ex-girlfriends go misty and think about the good times. If you have Kylie Minogue as a voice, use her presence to make it feel real.
Overall, I enjoyed this documentary, but I wish it did a little bit more with the people who participated. It would have been lovely to see each person in Hutchence’s life. If anything, this would make an INCREDIBLE podcast series of Hutchence’s life because it did do what it set out to do. If you’re a huge Hutchence, INXS, or Max Q fan, Mystify: Michael Hutchence is the documentary for you.