Sunday, May 2, 2010

Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields [Hot Docs reviews]

84 min ~ USA
Director: Kerthy Fix, Gail O'Hara ~ Producers : Kerthy Fix, Gail O'Hara, Alan Oxman

Rating (out of 4 stars):
Hot Docs showtimes & trailer

I never heard of the Magnetic Fields until I saw this film, but after seeing it I didn't much care about them either. They are a cult band with a dedicated following, but beyond that there's little else to say about bandleader Stephin Merritt. He and bandmate-manager, Claudia Gonson, arose out of the Reagan 80s to become indie darlings, but never hit mainstream success due to their unusual instrumentation (a cello) and dour lyrics. Billed as both a genius and misanthrope, Merritt isn't exactly either. Instead, he comes across as a talented guy making interesting music, but he's also withdrawn and speaks in a consistent monotone which makes him a lousy choice for a documentary. I never got under his skin. Fans of the Magnetic Fields will of course, beg to differ, and they will revel in vintage home movies and interviews shot over 10 years. However, the rest of us may just shrug.

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