Discussing 'Mystify: Michael Hutchence'

BY TRAVIS GREEN

In early 2020, the NFSA hosted a screening and conversation with filmmaker Richard Lowenstein and film editor Tayler Martin about the documentary Mystify: Michael Hutchence (2019).

The film explores the heart and soul of Michael Hutchence, lead singer of INXS. A complex and shy man, Hutchence spent much of his life in the public eye, rarely revealing his true self to anyone except his very close friends.

In the 40-minute conversation with NFSA Creative Producer Sam Dignand, Lowenstein and Martin talk about the film, the music of INXS and the life of Michael Hutchence:

You can find available streaming options for Mystify: Michael Hutchence via JustWatch.

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Richard Lowenstein

Born in Melbourne, 1959, Australian filmmaker Richard Lowenstein has an illustrious career in feature films and music videos. His film credits include Strikebound (1984), Dogs In Space (1986) and He Died With A Felafel In His Hand (2001).

In 1984 he directed his first music video for INXS, 'Burn for You', followed by 'All the Voices' and 'Dancing on the Jetty' in the same year. He established a long-term relationship with INXS and produced, directed and edited more of their music videos over subsequent years. Lowenstein won Countdown Music and Video Awards in 1984 and 1985 for his INXS music videos.

Lowenstein has also created music videos for some of Australia’s greatest artists, including Hunters & Collectors, Cold Chisel and Crowded House, as well as international acts like U2, including their concert documentary LoveTown (1989). He directed the live concert documentary Australian Made (1987) which featured Michael Hutchence singing the Easybeats' song 'Good Times' with Jimmy Barnes. You can view their performance here.

The NFSA holds a number of Lowenstein's films in the collection, along with supporting recordings and documentation. A selection of Lowenstein's work can be explored on the NFSA's australianscreen website.

Michael Hutchence

Born in Sydney in 1960, the musician, singer-songwriter and actor was a charismatic performer known for his seductive vocals and magnetic stage presence. Hutchence was the lead singer and lyricist in the Australian rock band INXS from 1977 until his death in 1997.

Singer Michael Hutchence kneeling on the ground and resting his chin in his hand and looking directly at camera, wearing a black military style jacket.

Michael Hutchence publicity image, c.1980. NFSA title 785957.

Outside of INXS, Hutchence recorded solo material, providing vocals for new wave band Beargarden, and was a member of short-lived pop-rock group Max Q. In 1986 Hutchence played Sam, the lead role in Dogs In Space. He made further film acting appearances in Frankenstein Unbound (Roger Corman, USA, 1990), opposite John Hurt, and in Limp (Duane Lavold, Canada–USA, 1999).

Hutchence had several romantic relationships with high-profile people, and his private life was often reported in the media. In 1996 his only child was born, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily, with partner Paula Yates.

Tragically, on 22 November 1997, Michael Hutchence was found dead in a hotel room in Sydney.

In 2017, the NFSA published two rare interviews with Hutchence, marking 20 years since his death. 

INXS

Originally formed as the Farriss Brothers in Sydney in 1977, INXS is an iconic Australian rock band featuring bassist Gary Beers, keyboardist Andrew Farriss, drummer Jon Farriss, guitarist Tim Farriss, guitarist and saxophonist Kirk Pengilly and lead singer Michael Hutchence.

INXS had their first number one hit in Australia in 1984 with 'Original Sin', and achieved international success in the late 1980s with hits like 'What You Need', 'Devil Inside', 'New Sensation' and 'Never Tear Us Apart':

The band has sold over 60 million records worldwide, and are the third-highest selling Australian music act in the US. INXS have received nominations for and won numerous awards, including ARIA Awards, Grammy Awards and MTV Music Video Awards, and were inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame in 2001.

Following Michael Hutchence’s death, INXS have made appearances with several guest singers including Jimmy Barnes, Jon Stevens and Terence Trent D’Arby. The band reformed in 2005 with JD Fortune as lead singer. During a concert at the Perth Arena in 2012, INXS announced they would no longer tour. 

The INXS song 'Don't Change' (1982) was inducted into the NFSA's Sounds of Australia in 2017.