A blog devoted to the works of Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields, The 6ths, Future Bible Heroes, The Gothic Archies, et al. This blog will feature news related to his work, as well as occasional fanboy gushes from the author. Thank you for stopping by, and may all your dreams come true.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Reviews of the film

What with all the screenings of Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields, there's been a myriad of reviews that have gone unmentioned on Aging Spinsters, mostly because they're about a paragraph long and rarely offer new insight into the film.  As one of the few Stephinfans who hasn't seen the film and has no solidified plans to do so in the foreseeable future, this has been frustrating to say the least.  But, there seems to have been an influx of decent reviews in the past days.

Letters Have No Arms offers brief summation of some key scenes, most notably Stephin's surefire method to annoy Germans and his absolutely fabulous description of Claudia ("As other people go, she's okay.").  Plus, they have a few very cool photos posted, including the one seen here.  The Boston Phoenix describes the film as "the most penetrating portrait of Merritt to date," which is cool, certainly, but isn't saying a whole lot.

Thus far, all the negative reviews have focused on the film's lack of dramatic impact, and the reviews from Panic Manual and Toronto Screen Shots aren't exceptions (though the former repeatedly calls Ms. Claudia Gonson "Cynthia," so it's harder for me to take it 100% seriously).  If anything, though, this kind of talk is only making me more excited for the film!  Just a little glimpse into that world is all I ask of it, and every review says that is primarily what the film offers.

If there are any readers who have seen the film (ahem), I'd certainly love for you to post your thoughts on the film.  I'd love to hear what you all have to say about it.


  1. I got to see "Strange Powers" last night, as part of Toronto's 'Hot Docs' festival. And I agree with the 'negative' reviews above in the sense that it is not a film full of narrative drive or penetrating psychological insights. In 'verite' style, it just follows along with the band for a few years, almost like a series of home movie clips. As such, I doubt it will find much favour with people who are not already fans.


    For people who *are* fans of The Magnetic Fields, this film is a huge and shiny present. You get to see Stephin's home studios (in New York and California), his shelves of books and music, footage of him starting to work out the arrangement of 'In An Operetta' with Claudia, the cover of an album by Stephin's father (whom he has never met), videos of the band from the early 90s, an amusing interview with Stephin and his mother, words from Sam and John, an amusing anecdote from Emma...and wall-to-wall Merritt music. You hear snippets of Future Bible Heroes, Gothic Archies...and even The Zinnias. And his interview on Atlanta TV is simply hilarious.

    The filmmakers don't attempt to pry into Stephin's psyche. Few questions are asked of him on camera. The viewer is left to derive their own conclusions, and decide what they make of the man and his music. You, I have no doubt, are going to adore it.


  2. Man, Professor Booty, aside from having perhaps the best pseudonym of all time, you've given a really excellent review of the film. It's these kind of reviews I really love, as I think they're more aprospos to my own sensibilities than anything the Village Voice or Time Out is going to muster.

    I'm interested in hearing this Zinnias incorporation as well. Very intriguing.