Doc Edge 18 | George Michael: Freedom: The Director’s Cut

United Kingdom | 2018 | 113 min | English | George Michael, David Austin

As glamorous, provocative, sexy and recognizable as the subject of this documentary herself; Kate Moss (global supermodel) presents the film, in a swinging director’s chair all George Michael fans will recognize from the infamous ‘Fast Love’ video.

A'still' from the opening of the documentary film.

Singer Adele’s haunting rendition of ‘Fast Love’ plays as the credits roll out to us from the screen, of all who have contributed to the production of ‘George Michael: Freedom: The Director’s Cut’, most poignantly the man himself, who died not long before the final takes were edited. On Christmas day 2016.

The film launches straight into the early stages of George’s burgeoning career.  From short-lived beginnings in a start-up SKA band called ‘The Executive’s’ with his formative music partner Andrew Ridgely, to the formation of WHAM in 1981.  George’s earlier life and upbringing are somewhat missing in the introduction as to how this superstar came into being, while it focuses instead, on the man post WHAM, the subsequent trappings and downside of fame and fortune, as his solo career reaches unprecedented heights.

It describes the parallel’s of the upbeat, whimsical sound of WHAM, to the seriousness of the political situation in the U.K at the time, during the late Thatcher years.  A band whose success was insurmountable with hits from their 1983 debut album ‘Fantastic’; ‘Club Tropicana’ and ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’.  Which was later shadowed only, when George’s own image and personal achievement surpassed that of the ban

George Michael was a man very aware of his superstar status (a fact which is also evident in his decision to narrate the majority of this story himself).  He also reveals that his motivations from early-on, were driven by his desire for fame and recognition, and with a film that features running commentary from the toast of pop-culture, fashion & music’s finest; Stevie Wonder, Jean Paul-Gaultier, Nile Rodgers, Naomi Campbell and Mary J Blige, to name but a few …  His successful pursuit for stardom and the impact he left among his  dearest friends are not left in question.

We are then taken on a musical history tour throughout his solo years, as he decides he needs to create a new character alongside his equally as famous contemporaries; Madonna, Prince etc …   From 1984’s  ‘Careless Whisper’ to the soulfully beautiful ‘One More Try’ (1987).  He experiences unrivaled fame in the U.S as the audience resonates with the sound of this t’deep, honest and profound lyricist’.

His R&B connections ran even further to collaborations with such soul greats as; Aretha Franklin, Tony Bennett and of course, Stevie Wonder.

Freedom: The Directors Cut,  also touches on the heartbreak and low-points throughout George’s most formative years.  With the heart-breaking loss of his first love to AID’s, his clash with the management at SONY records driven by his need to break-free and refusal to longer self-promote, to the death of his beloved mother …  It also describes the loneliness and emptiness that comes from such unimaginable levels of fame.   Yet with such heartbreak emerges such artistic brilliance, with his 1996 album entitled: ‘Older’ that follows the equally as symbolic ‘Listen Without Prejudice’ (1990).   A record which he proclaims to be his “Greatest achievement yet”.

The film, is a tribute to George Michael’s hall of fame of hits, and their often very deep relevance to his situation at the time. eg – ‘Jesus To A Child’ (a ’94 ode to his lover Anselmo Feleppa).

However, as much of George Michael fan as I may be,  I just did not quite understand the visual mash-up at the end, with it’s juxtaposition of videos and highlights throughout his extensive and colourful career.  I suppose to me, it may have seemed slightly self-indulgent.  Yet perhaps it was necessary, to create a lasting image as vivid and captivating as the artist himself.

*** 3 Stars

George Michael: Freedom: The Director’s Cut – is part of the Doc Edge Film Festival 2018.

Screening in Auckland:

Loft / Tues 29 May,  8.15 PM
Rangatira / Sun 03 June,  4.00 PM