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, January 20, 2011

Strange Powers in Review

So, I'll start by saying that I'm aware of how rarely I have anything negative to say about any projects at all Merritt-related.  In reviewing Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields, I'm not sure if that will be the case, though any qualms I have with the film are admittedly superficial in nature.  That being said, it is highly likely that the subject matter of the film alone has given it the status of my new favorite film of all time, despite the fact that I admit it has flaws as a film.  But, I've found enough perfection elsewhere in the world (ahem) to expect it everywhere.

Perhaps what I love most about the film is its focus on Stephin Merritt's music as opposed to trying to delve into his personal life.  I think my rabid fanaticism on this blog can sometimes give the misconception that my obsession lies with the man whose name is in the title of this blog, but reallytrulyhonestly it is, and always has been, with the music said man creates.  Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields, while certainly a testament to Stephin's relationship with Claudia, is much more of a love song to Stephin's music than anything else.  Surely it relays a concise overview of his personality, but it does so without pandering to discuss topics like his love life or childhood to any ridiculous extent.

However, herein lies perhaps my biggest quibble with the film.  In several interviews, Ms. Kerthy Fix has stated Mr. Merritt's only contributed edits to the film were musical in nature; after what I'm sure was an extensive editing process, this remains a problem.  As an enormous fan of the music played in the movie, it was unnerving to hear it in these mostly choppy forms; I understand the necessity, as playing the entire songs does not work in a narrative sense, but for someone like myself who has heard these songs literally hundreds and hundreds of times, it served as a distraction and an annoyance.

From my perspective as a ridiculous superfan, though, the film really did do everything I needed it to.  Watching Stephin and Claudia argue about where the measure ended in "In An Operetta" literally brought tears to my eyes; again, I've spent countless hours of my life devoted to this man's music, punditry, and my silly little blog, and those intimate moments where Stephin is creating music were really poignant and beautiful...  But, no doubt, my favorite moment in the film is Stephin discussing beauty.  At that point, Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields functions as a piece of art and a labor of love moreso than in any other moment...  Stephin is saying how he views other records as early cinema verite, and how his own are celebrations of beauty - instead of Stephin onscreen, though, there is this beautiful scene from a 1950's musical whose title I'm too dense to know offhand, and its beautiful and perfect.  Having wondered several times in my life how exactly to put into words what it is I love about Stephin Merritt's art, I thank Ms. Kerthy Fix and Ms. Gail O'Hara immensely for giving me a 15-second clip to which I can forever point for an answer...

Will someone who is unfamiliar with the music love the film as much as I did?  I don't know - I can only speak from my perspective.  And, chances are, if you're reading this, you'll find it easier to connect with me than a nonfan, and as such, I'm sure you'll love it.  Go through any lengths you can to see it, friends.  I love all of you.


  1. Augh! If only I didn't live in New Zealand! I'll have to hope the annual international film festival picks it up...

  2. Well, Mr. Davies, I am about to post some information on this very blog that pertains to your very predicament. CHECK IT THE FUCK OUT.


  4. February 8th is the specific iTunes date, for the UK and US. I'm as excited as you are, kind sir!!