Michael Hutchence in Mystify.
Michael Hutchence in Mystify. Supplied

MOVIE REVIEW: Women shape portrait of man behind the myth

MYSTIFY: MICHAEL HUTCHENCE

Three stars

Director: Richard Lowenstein

Starring: Michael Hutchence, Kylie Minogue, Helena Christensen

Rating: MA15+

Running time: 102 minutes

Verdict: Up close and personal

 

From the older sister who raised him to the vivacious British TV presenter with whom he had a child … it's the women in Michael Hutchence's life that shape this hotly anticipated documentary.

And their intimate perspective gently recalibrates the INXS frontman's public image.

Producer Michele Bennett, Hutchence's first love, and one of the last people he spoke to before he took his life, recalls the early days in a share house in inner-city Sydney.

Kylie Minogue talks fondly - and for her, remarkably candidly - about their two years together in the late 1980s/early '90s in what feels like the most revelatory sequence in the film.

Acknowledging Hutchence's influence, she suggests the public good girl/bad boy perception of their relationship was probably fairly accurate.

Hutchence's own home video footage of this time - fooling around on yachts, picking cherries - is pretty much idyllic.

But Minogue also alludes to a darker period that coincided with his decision to break off their relationship.

Seemingly still unsure about what exactly it was that caused the split, Minogue says it was obviously about more than just her.

Also talking about her relationship with Hutchence for the first time in any depth,

Danish supermodel Helena Christensen's testimony is the most shocking.

Remembering the night Hutchence was king-hit by a Copenhagen taxi driver, she recounts how the singer lay in the dark in her apartment for weeks afterwards, throwing up blood and barely eating.

Michael Hutchence and Kylie Minogue in a scene from Mystify.
Michael Hutchence and Kylie Minogue in a scene from Mystify.

Director Richard Lowenstein, who directed Hutchence in the 1986 Ozpunk classic Dogs In Space, suggests the brain damage that resulted from this freak accident was directly responsible for the singer's tragic downward spiral into drug dependency.

In the years that followed, Hutchence began to suffer increasingly severe bouts of depression. He also became uncharacteristically aggressive.

Hutchence's relationship with Paula Yates appears to have been more volatile than his earlier love affairs, partly due to the intense media scrutiny as a result of her break-up with Bob Geldof.

But the couple's sexual chemistry, and their love for their daughter Tiger Lily, is clear.

The other strong, authoritative female voices in the documentary belong to Hutchence's personal manager, Martha Troup, and his sister Tina, who basically raised him as a child.

Adding an extra dimension to the family background is younger brother Rhett, who was left behind when Hutchence's mother fled with her older son to America.

In Mystify, Lowenstein has chosen to replace the conventional talking head interviews with a steady voice-over narration that runs underneath Hutchence's home videos and archival footage.

While it's more visually interesting, there are times when this storytelling device results in a kind of emotional disconnect.

And although they corroborate Lowenstein's version of events, the band's role in Hutchence's story feels strangely under-amplified - emotionally and musically.

A measured, personal, densely woven account of the man behind the myth.

Opens Thursday.