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Urs Peter Halter
Having failed to break into professional opera in his native Germany (where, as an usher in West Berlin's Deutsche Oper, he would serenade the staff after the 'real' performances were over) the diminutive Klaus Nomi headed for NYC in 1972. The vibrant New Wave/avant-garde gestalt of the mid/late '70's East Village proved to be fertile ground for the development of his unique talents. Working by day as a high-end pastry chef, Nomi began to stage his outlandish performances, first launching himself upon an unsuspecting public at the New Wave Vaudeville in 1978. The hip and cynical young audience was stunned by this weird combination of falsetto arias, booming classical orchestration, Kraftwerk-style electronica, futuristic costumes and outer space imagery. An odd assortment of artists, choreographers, designers, songwriters and musicians jumped on to the Nomi bandwagon and the phenomenon began to take off - first attracting thousands to South Manhattan events (including performances at ... Written by
Klaus Nomi was certainly an interesting character. Possessing a unique look and a phenomenal voice, he seemed poised for a measure of stardom during the early 1980s. Alas, Nomi was to be one of the first people of note to be struck down by AIDS.
This documentary does a very credible job of not only giving us a glimpse into Klaus Nomi, but also giving us a look into the world of the "New Wave" in New York during the late 1970s and early 1980s. It is replete with footage of Nomi in performance, showing off his truly bizarre look and his unbelievable singing voice (Nomi's performance of "The Cold Song," an arrangement of a piece by Henry Purcell, is one of the most beautifully haunting pieces of music I've ever heard).
Andrew Horn does a very good job of interspersing interview footage and performance footage. He does, however, misstep in a couple of areas. The use of 1950s Sci-fi footage, used to augment Nomi's ruse of being from outer space, is overdone. Horn apparently feels the need to hammer this motif into the ground. More unusual is the use of paper mache cut-outs used to represent Nomi's aunt, seen as we hear her many comments throughout the film. It is a device as obscure in its intent as it is distracting and annoying in its effect.
Overall, this is a good documentary with a pervasive sadness. We lost an amazing voice before it could be heard by the world. It is a well done portrait of a unique character, a colossal talent, and at heart, a lonely man with a sweet, sweet soul.
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