Hello, and welcome to another edition of You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet! My series of review-articles are not necessarily the greatest films in movie history, but all of them are most memorable. I like to think of them as a celebration of the strangest films out there.
by Martin Hafer
I’d never heard of Klaus Nomi before I saw The Nomi Song –even though I lived through the time period in which he gained underground fame. What I remember instead are the strange New Wave acts that followed in his footsteps–groups that imitated his weird stage routine, makeup and costumes but never quite equaled his sense of strangeness and theatricality. Probably the closest to Nomi that I remember was Grace Jones, though the hair and costumes of A Flock of Seagulls also had to have been influenced by Nomi as well. As for David Bowie, it’s hard to tell how much Nomi influenced him or vice-versa as both had a rather similar “other-worldliness” about them in the 1970s.
What completely set this man apart, including from the people listed above, was his bizarre singing and stage routines. Having had aspirations to do opera and having a very, very high-pitched, his singing was something unmatched then or today. Some of this could be because few could imitate the style and some because it was so strange and outside the mainstream you wonder if there’d even be a market for this sort of music…ever! It was interesting and wild–though, to me, not especially something I would like to listen to for long—though it did encourage me to buy one of his albums.
This documentary is about the man’s life–particularly after he came to America in the early 70s. His life in Greenwich Village among the artsy crowd, his rise to prominence in what was to be termed the “New Wave” and his ultimate fall when he just started to achieve fame are all chronicled here. A sad piece, but I also appreciated how the film makers didn’t just whitewash the man–giving a hint to the darker aspects of this strange man (such as the repeated theft of his friend’s music and his involvement in the gay subculture).
How the story was told was executed very well, though there were limits since the video recordings of Klaus Nomi were often of poor quality due to the technology of the time. Also, in a VERY strange move, old audio interviews with his aunt were used but in an odd way. Since they had no video, they created sets and used a large cut-out of her! Weird, but considering Nomi’s legacy, probably appropriate.
Considering that I didn’t know about Nomi and was not so taken by much of his music, you’d expect I wouldn’t really care for the film, but this would be mistaken. It was nice from a nostalgic point of view for this 40-something guy and the film was well-constructed. It also gave you a real sense of sadness at his early passing. Well worth a look if you like documentaries AND want something different….VERY different. This film is also available on Netflix.
Martin’s Grade: A