The emergence of Klaus Nomi in the early 80s was an event that, while momentous and important, largely went unnoticed in an era of change. With arena rock slipping out of favour and punk/post-punk/new wave making inroads, the theatre of Klaus Nomi was something more than a refreshing change, it was wildly different. With noticeable performances in Urgh! A Music War and backup for David Bowie on a Saturday Night Live show, Nomi's star was rising.
Klaus Nomi gave an operatic edge to songs that he sung while providing a rock backdrop that appealed to music fans that were on the cutting edge of the new wave of music. You couldn't help but be intrigued by his cover of Lou Christie's "Lightning Strikes" which is made all the more impressive by his operatic chorus. With trained voice, Nomi transformed songs into memorable signature pieces. His turn on The Wizard of Oz (a fitting world for Nomi) tune, "Ding Dong, The Witch is Dead" is quite a workover and very entertaining. Nomi produced two impressive albums before a tragic death from AIDS cut short a career that was already failing despite the deserved lasting impression that the magic and music of Klaus Nomi would carve into the annals of innovative styles.
Andrew Horn's moving and illuminating documentary of the life and death of Klaus Nomi uncovers a rich story of emotional and professional need, betrayal, personal demons, and evocative music that reshaped songs like Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling in Love," and Chubby Checker's immortal "The Twist" into classic transformations. Nomi breathed life into songs written for him as well. As the film travels through the passages of Klaus Nomi's life, the sadness and loss that encapsulated him is unavoidably revealed while also showing a part of his life that separated the tragically destructive need from the love of his family in Europe.
Horn's film also celebrates the theatre of Nomi as well as the cult love and dedication of Nomi's fans. There are scenes of Nomi's infatuation with his depiction as an otherworldly singer as he sought to stand his persona apart form the usual musician and performer. He created and exploited an alien persona that utilized lights and oversized tuxedoes to impress the opera act while highlighting the outlandish rock act complete with choreographed work.
There are lots of interviews with the supporting artists that helped to shape Nomi's vision as a new wave performer unmatched in his visibility. One of those influences was the songwriting skills of Kristian Hoffman, whose excellent "Simple Man," and "Total Eclipse" added to Klaus Nomi's work as an emerging singer that had the market cornered on uniqueness. Unfortunately, the tale that Hoffman shares is one of betrayal and strains the perfection of Nomi's art. Regardless, Hoffman expresses awe at Nomi and his talent even if it meant that he was cheated.
The DVD of Horn's film brings not only the original award-winning documentary to your player but adds numerous and rewarding special features that include exclusive audio remixes from Scissor Sisters and others. Also found on this DVD are deleted scenes, a photo gallery from noted East Village photographer, David Godlis, who tells of missed opportunities during Nomi's last days, a theatrical trailer, an excellent director's commentary track, along with an interview with Lou Christie whose "Lightning Strikes" was so differently remade. Also included are full performances of "The Cold Song" and "After the Fall" that are not to be missed and which, by themselves, are worth the cost of the DVD.
You will be challenged, moved, and intrigued by a life made all the more sad by the decline of Nomi during his New York City years. There has been no other like Klaus Nomi and likely, there will never be another. He formed a brief but fiery star that crashed and burned. But the impact made will always shine a light on his story. Andrew Horn's film solidified that life and has made a lasting paean to Klaus Nomi and his art.