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New Zealand International Film Festival

July to November NZ wide | TVNZ

Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields: Film Festival


Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields

USA 2010, 89m
Directors: Kerthy Fix, Gail O'Hara
Festivals: SXSW 2010

Stephin Merritt may be the greatest American songwriter you've never heard of. Merritt and his band the Magnetic Fields are best known for their 1999 magnum opus 69 Love Songs, a rare triple album that lives up to its high concept and follows a wry, literate tradition of American songcraft stretching back through Randy Newman to Rodgers & Hart and Cole Porter. He's been targeted for his unhip reference points, and the film includes an unexpected and unqualified apology from the New Yorker critic who once accused Merritt of racism.

Merritt is renowned for his deadpan demeanour and has been called 'the grumpiest man alive' by nonplussed interviewers, but this affectionate film, shot over ten years, draws him out of his shell. It's not surprising, though, that the filmmakers find a more forthcoming and animated secondary subject in his long-term bandmate, manager, antagonist and best friend, Claudia Gonson. This broader focus allows Strange Powers to transcend simple hero worship and become a fascinating portrait of creative partnership. - AL


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