“Mystify: Michael Hutchence” is a dreamy-paced documentary about the late INXS singer, told through oral accounts and video clips, including home footage taken by Hutchence, family members and girlfriends. Winner of Best Documentary at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival, it was directed by close friend and frequent INXS video director Richard Lowenstein. The film paints the portrait of an extraordinarily charismatic, but sensitive soul whose personality was tragically altered by a random physical attack that resulted in untreated brain damage. The effect was to start him down a depression spiral aggravated by a declining career, drug use and a vicious custody battle between his daughter’s mother Paula Yates and her husband Bob Geldof. In the end, it led him to take his own life at age 37.
Hutchence was reportedly a shy kid that was unhappy at home and treated his groups of friends as beloved family. Once onstage, he was a natural, electrifying performer. He was passionate and a hard-partier, but he was also philosophical and well-read, a side of him that seemed in contrast with his overtly sexy stage persona and lyrics. The word sensual is used to describe him often, which is kind of amusing until we learn that the assault he experienced deprived him of his sense of taste and smell. Then suddenly, it’s sobering, because you realize how strongly that affected him.
INXS fans may be a little disappointed that the documentary doesn’t delve into the music, but the focus here is Hutchence’s personal life and at times it leaps from one romantic relationship to the next—with high-profile partners like Kylie Minogue and Helena Christensen. But it’s clear that he and Andrew Farriss were excellent co-writers, and the live clips are testament to Hutchence’s incredible voice that apparently never tired. There is a scene near of the end of the two of them running through “Mystify” from their platinum-selling album Kick, on the piano in a studio and the magic is thrilling.