Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields (USA/Denmark/France/Germany/UK; 89 min.)

directed by: Kerthy Fix; Gail O'Hara
Stonewall Uprising

Chris says: "An adequate documentary about an extraordinary subject, this decade-in-the-making labor of love profiles Stephin Merritt, cult musician and head of The Magnetic Fields (and many other side projects). As a songwriter, Merritt seems out-of-time, his lyrics and melodies recalling the arch, witty (and occasionally breathtaking) wordplay of Cole Porter and Noel Coward. As a musician, Merritt’s positively postmodern, veering from cello-laden chamber pop to toy-store electronic settings to an entire album called Distortion that excessively lives up to its title. However, instead of merely fawning over Merritt’s considerable talent, the film wisely spends more time examining his resolutely deadpan, often difficult personality and relationship with long-term collaborator and friend Claudia Gonson. As they bring out both the best and worst in each other, we get a comprehensive sense of how art and life feed off each other and the also the quandary of being well-known in a particular community but not famous outside of it. But great subjects do not necessarily make for great films, and while it contains no serious missteps, aesthetically, STRANGE POWERS feels a little flat, especially compared to a similar cult-artist profile like SCOTT WALKER: 30TH CENTURY MAN.  3 cats"