A clever, distinctive artist with Leonard Cohen's vocal range and Cole Porter's gift for the unexpected rhyme, Stephin Merritt has been producing music in The Magnetic Fields and several other projects for over 20 years. And for the past decade, he's been followed by filmmakers Kerthy Fix and Gail O'Hara.

A clever, distinctive artist with Leonard Cohen's vocal range and Cole Porter's gift for the unexpected rhyme, Stephin Merritt has been producing music in The Magnetic Fields and several other projects for over 20 years. And for the past decade, he's been followed by filmmakers Kerthy Fix and Gail O'Hara.

Their documentary "Strange Powers" revisits the start of Merritt's career and delves into his studio and touring work with The Magnetic Fields for the hits "i" and "Distortion." For newcomers, it offers a primer on the band, Merritt's other projects and his notoriously churlish persona.

While he may get a little bitchy, Merritt's never less than interesting, particularly when he shares his songwriting process (he scribbles in gay bars, his Tin Pan Alley melodies arising from the thumping bass of club remixes).

Most intriguing is his relationship with longtime friend, collaborator and manager Claudia Gonson. They argue constantly, even taking it on stage as an uncomfortable comedy routine, but the effort yields creative results. At times, they seem lost without each other.

In these moments the film surpasses the intimacy levels of the average rock doc. Still, "Strange Powers" would benefit from more structural innovation and deeper mining into Merritt's enigmatic core.