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Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and The Magnetic Fields
(No longer in theaters)
Oct 27, 2010
The title figure in the celebrity doc Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields has the supercilious deadpan of Jack Benny and a Brahmin lockjaw that seems cultivated to keep the world at an ironic distance. (He’s not a Brahmin.) His singing voice is an unsustained moan that’s hit-or-miss, but Claudia Gonson, the band’s other vocalist (and Merritt’s surrogate big sister), covers many of the cracks. For all the time they spent with Merritt, filmmakers Kerthy Fix and Gail O’Hara don’t get too close. But that’s part of the movie’s charm. As in his pithy, tuneful songs—many written from different perspectives, in different styles—Merritt is committed to stylizing his misery instead of boring you with it.