Freedom Uncut

I have grown weary, over the course of his three-decade career, of attempting to explain George Michael to themwhats who insist on reducing a multifaceted career to some variation of peak-80s-culture punchline, aka, the guy with the hair in the shorts dispensing such lyric gems as “Wake me up, before you go go.” Oh ye of, forgive me, little faith. You’d expect a documentary made by George Michael himself (this is his final work before his death in 2016) to be at least a little flattering to the subject, and so Freedom Uncut is, as everyone from supermodels (Naomi, Cindy, Linda) to superstars (Elton, Aretha, Stevie, Mary J.) speak to Michael’s music, his musical legacy, and the spellbinding persona he created to fill arenas (and ultimately refused to market resulting in a massive legal fracas with Sony). But Freedom is also a can’t-look-away chronicle of the 1980s, the decade that saw the superstar ascents of Annie Lennox, Prince, and Madonna, and Michael Jackson as a thrilling solo artist who could not be beat. Watching the 80s through the lenses of its superstars is its own glossy and compelling reward, but Freedom also depicts the carnage of the decade, when the HIV virus tore through the world without mercy or viable treatment, targeting Michael’s first love, Anselmo Feleppa, among its other victims. At one point we see footage of David Bowie beaming backstage while Michael does a tribute to Freddie Mercury, the arena crowd singing along in massive unison to “Somebody to Love.” Like all the music packed into Freedom, it warrants setting your speakers and whatnot, all of them, to stun. This one in particular: Michael is singing a tribute to a man who died of AIDS. And he is singing it to Anselmo, knowing full well that they might be separated by the same disease. Michael calls it the “loudest prayer” he ever made. It’s still worth turning up. 87 min.

Wide release in theaters

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