Mystify: Michael Hutchence

Mystify: Michael Hutchence REVIEW

August 23, 2019
3 mins read
Mystify: Michael Hutchence


Mystify: Michael Hutchence REVIEW

Directed by Richard Lowenstein

Was Michael Hutchence’s life ruled by excess or simply touched by bad luck? PAUL ROSE reviews Mystify: Michael Hutchence, a film made by a friend of the late INXS singer.
Mystify Michael Hutchence REVIEW
Mystify: Michael Hutchence

I’ve always had a soft spot for INXS.

Not so much for their music – I’ve only ever owned the brilliant Nile Rodgers-produced 12-inch single of ‘Original Sin.’ But rather for their longevity and commitment – both to their art, and each other.

Formed as The Farriss Brothers in 1977, the schoolboy band consisted of Tim, Jon and Andrew Farriss. And singer Michael Hutchence. In 1979 they were joined by Kirk Pengilly and Garry Beers. And they changed their name to INXS.

Touring – Lots of Touring…

They toured intensively, driving in vans from gig to gig all over Australia. In 1981, they played over 300 pub and hall shows in Australia alone. Ten years later, they headlined Wembley Stadium in London, playing to 74,000 fans.
In 1984, the aforementioned song, ‘Original Sin’, became their first number one single in Australia and the band toured non-stop through Australasia, Europe, the UK and the USA. By the time of Hutchence’s death in 1997 they had sold in excess of 60 million records worldwide. With 30 million of those in the US alone. Making them the third biggest selling Australian act in America; behind AC/DC and the Bee Gees.
Not bad for a bunch of schoolmates from Sydney.
Mystify Michael Hutchence REVIEW
Mystify: Michael Hutchence

Richard Lowenstein, the director of Mystify: Michael Hutchence, made over a dozen videos for the band, including those for ‘Listen Like Thieves’ and ‘New Sensation,’ He also directed Hutchence in the feature film Dogs In Space. Suffice to say, Lowenstein got to know Hutchence very well. And they became fast friends. Which goes some way to explain why this film is so damned good: the director knew his subject and the personal highs and lows he experienced.

He tells Michael’s story using home movies, behind-the-scenes footage and interviews with band members, friends, family, managers. And especially interviews and footage of his girlfriends: Kim Wilson, Belinda Carlisle, Kylie Minogue, Helena Christensen and Paula Yates.

Kylie and Michael

Kylie and Michael were an item for two years. There’s some fantastic home movie footage in this film of the two of them together. You get the feeling that Kylie may have lost some of her innocence over the course of their relationship! After their partnership fizzled out, he dated supermodel Helena Christensen for four years. In Mystify, she says she fell for him the first time they met and described him as her “perfect match”.
Mystify: Michael Hutchence

One evening in Copenhagen in 1992 the two of them were cycling around the city when Hutchence became involved in an altercation with a taxi driver. This culminated in him being knocked to the pavement, where he banged his head so hard he became unconscious. With blood trickling out of his mouth and ears.

When he woke up in hospital he was uncharacteristically aggressive, refusing medical help and discharging himself. He had permanently lost his sense of smell. And developed a “dark and very angry side of himself.” Christensen tried to support him through this dark period. But became tired of his many mood swings. The two parted ways in 1995.

Paula Yates

Hutchence began an affair with television presenter Paula Yates. She was married to one-hit-wonder Bob Geldof, with whom she had three children. Michael had first experienced paparazzi when dating Kylie Minogue. But nothing had prepared him for the intense scrutiny they all came under as Yates and Geldof went through divorce procedures. Which were finalised in May 1996. A few months later, on July 22, Yates gave birth to Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Hutchence, Michael’s first and only child.

The 1997 “20th Anniversary Tour” took INXS back to Australia in November that year. Paula and the children were due to join Michael in Sydney. But she called him early on the morning of November 22 at his Ritz Carlton Hotel location, to let him know that they wouldn’t be coming. Because the Geldof girls’ custody hearing had been postponed, til mid-December.

Hutchence was beside himself. He really wanted his family with him. And he rang Geldof, trying to persuade him to let them come to Australia. Geldof refused, describing the call as “hectoring, abusive and threatening”. He refers to Hutchence as “begging” to allow the children to come to Australia.
Mystify: Michael Hutchence

A hotel maid found Michael’s body in his room later that morning. The coroner found that Hutchence had committed suicide by hanging. The 20 year ride of the charismatic frontman of INXS had come to an untimely end.

Mystify: Michael Hutchence Review – conclusion

Director Richard Lowenstein has done a near-perfect job of documenting the Michael Hutchence story. Being a personal friend of the artist allows him access to the people closest to him. And he had so much footage that it took him 18 months to edit the film.

He treats his subject with the deference he deserves. In someone else’s hands, this could have been a sensational sex and drugs and rock and roll expose. Instead, we get a real understanding of what made Michael Hutchence tick; and a remarkable story of the man who fronted a band that formed as high school kids, one that kept the same band members for 20 years.

Mystify: Michael Hutchence is a film which will not only appeal to fans of Hutchence and INXS, but to anybody interested in the human story. A success on all levels.

* Mystify: Michael Hutchence screens in NZ from September 12.
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Paul reviews films. His illustrious history includes many years in the music industry as a label owner, venue booker, publicist, band and record store manager, including a three-year stint at the helm of Real Groovy. More recently, he managed the Rialto cinema in Auckland and co-ordinated the NZIFF’s programme of short films. He writes for magazines and website, too!

1 Comment

  1. R ichard Lowenstein’s long-gestating documentary Mystify: Michael Hutchence has finally arrived after a decade in the works. In a sense, the veteran indie auteur has been chipping away at the film even longer than that, since the early days of his career, having directed several music videos for INXS – the Australian rock band the renowned singer-songwriter fronted.

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