Stephin Merritt is often not a particularly amiable guy. “There was some kind of perception of Stephin as the Grumpy of rock ‘n’ roll,” author Neil Gaiman quips in the trailer for a documentary about the Magnetic Fields’ cantankerous frontman. “He makes Lou Reed look like Little Orphan Annie.”
Snow White references aside, 2010 will find Merritt cozying up to fellow misanthrope Captain Nemo at the San Francisco Film Society on May 4. Merritt will perform a score for the 1917 silent film version of Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea live. “I’m going to try to musicalize it to be more or less in sync with the moving lips of the actors, who actually talk a great deal, considering it’s a silent film,” he told Exclaim.
The San Francisco Film Society will also premiere the aforementioned documentary about Merritt on Feb. 28. The film, which took a decade to make, is titled Strange Powers: Stephin Merritt and the Magnetic Fields. It features interviews with author Daniel Handler, who played accordion on the Fields’ 69 Love Songs, Paste’s sixth favorite comedian of the last decade, Sarah Silverman, who self-identifies as a Magnetic Fields fan, and Peter Gabriel, who says, “The more time I spent with the music, the more I got to think this is really one of America’s great songwriters at work.” Gabriel was so impressed by Merritt’s songwriting, he asked him to be a part of the Scratch My Back project Gabriel started last month. Gabriel released an orchestral interpretation of Merritt’s “The Book of Love” on Jan. 30.
As if his myriad projects aren’t enough to keep Merritt busy for a while, a box set of the Magnetic Fields’ epic 69 Love Songs, remastered across three vinyl LPs, will be released April 20 on Merge.
Watch the trailer for Strange Powers: