Starring: Klaus Nomi, Ann Magnuson, Gabriele Lafari, David McDermott Script: Andrew Horn Running Time: 1:38 Country: USA/Germany Year: 2004 Official Site: The Nomi Song
For most people, Klaus Nomi is some sort of alien with the voice of a diva. While fully embracing this iconic image, The Nomi Song shows there is a man behind the myth and make-up , a real artist who struggled with integrity, commercial success and solitude before losing everything to an at-the-time new disease which was prematurely named "the gay cancer".
Rather than meticulously following a typical biographical path, the documentary starts where it all really began, in the streets of New York, when a young and nerdy German expatriate with a golden voice was discovered by a group of performance artists. From his first show, we follow his quick rise to stardom through live footage and interviews as he becomes one of the most prominent figures of the new wave movement around the world.
I've always been fascinated by stories about the artistic world of New York, whether it's during the pop art years or in the post-punk era, because it's one of the rare moments in history when music, art and cinema were so intertwined that they blended to create a rare source of creativity which burst in unison and influenced art forms and cultures across the board.
While I'm certainly not a fan of Klaus Nomi, whom I find musically too weird for my taste, even though I grew up immersed in British new wave and electro, his persona and trajectory are so unique and bizarre that you can't help being absorbed by this documentary.
Contrary to what happens to the current state of the music industry where poseurs and marketing prevail, here you know that you are watching a story about real artists and, more than 20 year later you notice that some of these figures have remained true to themselves, even "setting up" their interviews onscreen. Paradoxically, there is however a twist to integrity in this story, since Nomi himself, desperate to go beyond critical acclaim to reach commercial success sold out to a label, betrayed his friends, and ultimately, himself.
Nomi's originality resided in the mix of his operatic voice with electronic music, as well as in his alien outfits and avant-garde theatrics. Whether you like his music or not or think he was crazy, you can't deny his talent. Figures like him are rare, only Nina Hagen comes to mind at that level also present here, David Bowie is out of their league and you can clearly see how electro-wonders Fisherspooner have positioned themselves as his descendants.
His music being too weird, I doubt that there will ever be a Klaus Nomi revival, as has been the case lately with fellow new wavers and punks, but The Nomi Song makes it worth going beyond the myth of the alien opera singer.
The DVD also features some of his performances including the ones with Bowie on Saturday Night Live, a couple of deleted scenes, a look at the premiere of the film, a few interviews (some of them boring and lacking focus), as well as some audio remixes of his songs Fisherspooner would have undoubtedly been a better choice than a member of the Scissor Sisters.