The natural story arc of Michael Hutchence’s unnatural life suits this film and biography well. Composed mainly of still images and footage shot by the subjects of Hutchence’s life, Mystify plays like a visual Hip-Hop INXS mashup. Director Richard Lowenstien does well to avoid the clichés often found in reverse engineered tragedies, effortlessly making this film ooze emotional integrity though every eighties vintage frame. It makes for an enjoyable experience and overview of such an iconic musician’s life in an engaging manner.
The rock star image is a visual one, and pop music is even more visual in this approach, often pushing the image more than the sound. Part of this film’s thesis sets out to breakdown the idea that Hutchence – who was seen as somewhat of a sex god in his prime – is much more of a multi-sensory artist, both in his personal practice as well as his artistic product. It is quite an interesting experience having this viewed nearly twenty years after his death.
Considering this cultural preference for the visual over the audio, the choice to use vocal recordings and the occasional title exclusively to narrate the entirety of the film brings a welcomed auditory pleasure. This coupled with the obvious use of a heavily bonded soundtrack could have been released as an outstanding podcast, had the accompanying live concert footage and home tapes not also been exceptional.
And the live footage was most excellent.
Biopics often struggle with pacing, particularly if the subject is as chaotic as Hutchence was. Clocking in at well under two hours, the choice to leave out familiar parts of the story was a wise one. Touching only briefly upon the rise of INXS, as well as the death and turn of the century aftermath, allows for more personal stories to shine through. Instead of the usual “historical” approach, Lowenstien traces the ex-lovers, close family members and traumatic events. This decision could have rendered the film incomplete or put off some fans expecting something different. Authenticity and closeness shine through in its place, making the true story much more impactful.
In conclusion, a great and authentic film that is artistic and well done. Combining visual with a human story, it was great viewing.