Depression, supermodels and a love consumed by death: the keys to George Michael’s latest documentary

with his back to the camera, George Michael takes the time to calmly type a few words on a typewriter in a corner of his stately mansion. In the first minutes of the documentary Freedom Uncut, the last work he did in life before his unexpected death in 2016, the artist articulates the narrative of his most stormy years, in which he rose to pop stardom but at a high personal cost.

The documentary, directed by the artist himself along with David Austin, focuses on the singer’s formative years. From the early days, pairing with Andrew Ridgeley on Wham!, where they performed as a refreshingly festive youth pop band in the midst of Thatcher’s era, to early solo singles like the classic Careless Whisperin which he began to mark his own path thanks to his stage presence and his indisputable talent as a singer.

George Michael and Andrew Ridgely rose to fame with the duo Wham! in the eighties

There, George Michael tells that he faced a defining moment; had to mark his identity alone, adult enough to differentiate himself from his more youthful image of Wham! but at the same time, endowed with a load of sensuality. In his words, he wanted to compete and live up to Madonna, Prince and Michael Jackson, the triad that ruled pop. That was the step she took in Faith (1987), his fundamental first album in which he presented himself as a modern idol, but with certain nods to the past. “He was a modern Elvis”, is defined by an always direct Liam Gallagher, one of the star guests in the documentary.

That debut was marked by its references to r&b; his first single I want your sex, had clear funk touches that recalled the grain of J Brown and earned him his first scandal. But the key moment would come with Faith, a song that includes certain touches of rockabilly, which marked the first great success of the singer. One would come from there fierce advertising campaign and criticism from r&b royalty (Gladys Knight, present in archive material) who accused the Briton of opportunism. That blow was decisive for him, and marked part of his personality; henceforth he would be stubborn and determined to run his career on his own terms.

The promotion of Faith included an exhausting publicity campaign and an intense concert schedule live, with which George Michael established himself as the new pop star. But the price was high, and he tells it himself in the documentary. He confesses that at one of the last shows of his tour, he felt on the verge of collapse, and that at one point “I thought he wouldn’t be able to go on.” An experience that marked his next steps.

Despite pressure from US executives to repeat his success, his next album Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1 (1990) presented a different proposal. The title says it all; the idea was to take new ideas, without the prejudices that were attributed to him in his debut. And he did it big: the heartfelt ballad praying for time, which opens the work shows a different facet, and in the documentary, Elton John does not hesitate to compare him to John Lennon, while Liam Gallagher highlights the beatlesque fiber. It was not accidental; George Michael confesses that in those days he was enthusiastic about Stir Y abbey road.

george michael

But the most important detail, is that for this work George Michael refused to do promotion; all the publicity circus around Faith it had worn him out and he wanted to take a distance. Therefore, in the only promotional video of the album, to Freedom! 90 -directed by himself together with David Fincher-, decided to recruit the five top models at the moment; Thus, the spotlight fell on Naomi Campbell -the first to convince-, Linda Evangelista, Christy Turlington, Tatjana Patitz and Cindy Crawford. The documentary has a good time bringing together the stars who recall the details of the shoot and outline the personality of the artist.

The film also goes into a more personal plane; tells the story behind her romance with Brazilian designer Anselmo Feleppawhom he met during his shows in Rio de Janeiro in 1991. From there they began a passionate relationship, which he describes as the happiest years of his life, because somehow, they gave him a break from the madness of the industry.

However, the story ended in disgrace. Anselmo was diagnosed with HIV, a devastating blow for the artist almost at the same time he learned of the death of Freddie Mercury.due to the same disease. Hence, his legendary participation in the tribute concert to the late singer of Queen -with a superb interpretation of Somebody to love, thoroughly rehearsed for 5 days – was marked by misfortune. In a way, it was her tribute to her love for Anselmo and her fanaticism for Mercury during her adolescence.

From there, George Michael’s career hit rock bottom. The documentary delves into his most complex years, marked by his depression, addictions, and the media fight against the Sony company for separating from his contract, which he considered abusive. He lost in court, but that legal battle opened the door for him to sign with David Geffen to move to the Virgin catalogue.

A play embodied in the album older (1996), which he does not hesitate to describe as the “best moment” of his career. In the documentary, George Michael details that this album is his tribute to his love for Anselmo and to the most complex days of his life, on songs like Jesus to a Child, or the complex situation of HIV, on issues such as spinning the wheel. The work was a success in the United Kingdom, where it sold 1.8 million copies and more than 8 million worldwide. That year also, his mother passed away, with whom he had a close relationship, which increased his torment.

george michael

But the controversies did not end. In 1998 he was arrested by an undercover police officer after being accused of “lewd conduct” in a bathroom., which earned him a fine of $810 and a sentence of 80 hours of community service. From there, he revealed to the world his homosexuality. Of course, the incident spilled over into his music; in Outside, dresses up as a police officer, reveals his sexual orientation and also throws a party in a bathroom. Here is another trait of her personality; she did not deny what he did and admitted it openly, even in front of the press. A couple of cuts in television interviews of the time are enough, in which he recounts the incident and even allows himself to drop a couple of jokes about it. That was George Michael.

The documentary puts Michael in the present tense as the narrator, but for the most part he is seen in plenty of well-crafted footage, in order to give more weight to the narrative arc of the hero who struggles to reach the top, and once there, he must stay afloat as he can. It has the interventions of some of those close to him, assistants, record executives, and of course a cohort of celebrities who reveal anecdotes or certain ties in common; Musicians like Stevie Wonder, Nile Rodgers, Mark Ronson, Tony Bennett, Elton John, designer Jean Paul Gaultier, among others, spend there.

The film will have a unique function this Thursday, June 23 in the rooms of Cinépolis and Cines Hoyts. So far there is no further data on its possible arrival in streaming, so it is an unparalleled opportunity.