The Nomi Song Movie Review
Klaus Nomi was a 1980s musical oddity I had never heard of, but presumably enough people had to merit making a movie about him. Nomi was a real oddity, even for the glam-stricken '80s. Classically trained as a falsetto opera singer, he found himself in a world with no demand for classically-trained falsetto opera singers. Pop was in, particularly hair bands.
So Nomi created a persona -- an androgynous alien -- and wrote some songs, which would start out like Devo or Kraftwerk stomps, then suddenly break into beautiful arias about four octaves higher. Who knew what was lying under the wild hairdo and the ridiculous costume?
In Manhattan (and later, strangely, the Midwest), Nomi was a cult hit. But after a couple of albums, Nomi was dying in a hospital bed from the yet-to-be-named AIDS.
The Nomi Song is his story, as remembered by his friends and collaborators 22 years after his death. Their memories are largely honest and well articulated, but the picture they paint is far from compelling. Nomi hunted around for a gimmick, found one, had minor success, then soon died. There's not a lot of indication that he was going to become an international sensation a la James Dean (who also had a mercilessly short career), and no indication that anyone saw anything in him other than a novelty act. Ultimately, Nomi's biggest success seems to be as a backup player to David Bowie on one Saturday Night Live performance.
Current fans of Nomi's work will probably rush to the film. Those, like me, who have never heard of him, will probably not be running to buy his album.