BluRay/DVD Reviews


By • Jun 14th, 2005 •

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(Palm Pictures) 2004. 96 mins. Music/Doc

I was driving somewhere in Los Angeles two years ago, and a local DJ played ‘You Don’t Know Me’, by Klaus Nomi. I was struck by the weirdness of the singer’s counter-tenor voice, and the amusing play on words (Know Me = Nomi). When I got back to NYC, I tried in vain, occasionally, for two years, to find any of his CDs. I was told they were out of print. Finally, revisiting LA last month, I found his work at Amoeba, and the next day discovered that a DVD documentary was about to street about his life. I had no idea he’d been dead for 22 years, one of the earliest art world AIDS casualties. More and more intriguing…

Nomi was German, surviving often on the charity of others in the 70s, and looking for an identity, which he found after taking some singing lessons and discovering his strong operatic voice. With a stage persona as bizarre as Tiny Tim’s (who I was fortunate enough to see live before he became known, opening for The Fugs), he burst upon the music scene. A freak show with undeniable talent, he promoted himself in mime makeup and weird handmade outfits as a Martian. His fire burnt bright, and he took a number of people along with him for a very few short years until illness cut him down. All this is documented as best as possible within what I imagine was a budget that didn’t allow filmmaker Andrew Horn to buy all the Nomi performances he might have wanted. One leaves the film wanting more on that level only – the story, in its forlorn arc, is impressively patched together otherwise.

Supplements abound. The remixes of Nomi’s songs range from okay to exceptional. The one that moved me the most, except for one too-familiar disco riff, was a seven+minute long version of ‘Total Eclipse’ by Man Parrish. And an interview with Lou (‘Lightning Strikes’) Christie, about meeting Nomi after he heard that the singer was using his song, is a rarity indeed. Lots of other good material, about the East Village back in the day, etc. A very packed, satisfying DVD.

Also, if I finally found one of his CDs, then I guess you can as well. The one I have is cleverly called ‘Klaus Nomi’, and it bears the RCA and BMG logos, ND74420. It was produced by Ron Johnsen (interviewed in the documentary) for Spindizzy Music Inc.

DOUBLE BILL: Max Pemberton just reviewed PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. That could work…

Supplements: Commentary from director Andrew Horn, Deleted scenes/interviews, Full musical performances of two of Nomi’s songs, Audio remixes of Nomi’s work by Ana Matronic, Richard Barone, Man Parrish and The Moog Cookbook, Klaus Nomi’s recipe for Key Lime Tart, etc.

Appearances by Ann Magnuson, Gabriele Lafari, David MacDermot, David Bowie, and others.

Directed by Andrew Horn.
Also featured, the music of Wire, The Marbles, The Bongos, Pylon, The Mumps, etc.

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