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Palm Pictures presents
The Nomi Song: The Klaus Nomi Odyssey (2004)

"He really seemed like a creature from another dimension."
- Ann Magnuson

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: June 13, 2005

Stars: Klaus Nomi, Ann Magnuson, Gabriele La Fari, Page Wood, Man Parrish, Kristian Hoffman, Ron Johnsen, Michael Halsband, Tony Frere, Kenny Scharff, Anthony Scibelli, Alan Platt, JJ French, Ira Siff, Calvin Churchman, David McDermott, Trude Sperber, Pamela Rosenthal
Director: Andrew Horn

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild language)
Run Time: 01h:35m:51s
Release Date: June 14, 2005
UPC: 660200311025
Genre: documentary


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A A+B+B A-

DVD Review

Rock and roll history, if we've learned anything from all of those Behind the Music-type shows, is full of endless stories about bands or performers that struggled for fame, hit a seemingly insurmountable obstacle or two, focused on their "craft" and then rebounded somehow to rise up over their past mountain of problems. The post-punk/new wave story of Klaus Sperber—who is described during the opening of The Nomi Song as "this strange little man from Berlin"—is not one of rock's better-known sagas, and if Andrew Horn's documentary tells us anything it is that all of these stories do not always end happily.

Unless you were paying fairly close attention during those musically exciting years at the tail end of the 1970s into the early 1980s, the name Klaus Nomi might not even be familiar. He never achieved the type of stardom that always seemed imminent, and his death from AIDS took him just as his career seemed to be taking off. I can pretty much guarantee that if you ever saw or heard him, it was unlikely you could ever forget him. Even one of his most "mainstream" performances, in Urgh! A Music War (1981), done at a time when Nomi had unceremoniously ditched his original band, remains electric. Andrew Horn's film is a biography, with input from those closet to the eclectic and iconic Nomi, and now over 20 years after his death it seems that he may get the slice of rock glory he was due.

Sperber was a skilled operatic tenor with an avant-garde flair who fled Berlin and settled in New York City in the late 1970s, where he soon became a popular attraction at an arty post-modern vaudeville revival-type show performing as Klaus Nomi. In what was truly a metamorphosis, he literally "became" his new creation, a stylized arthouse alien decked out in strange outfits, who sang a blend of new wave-ish songs and traditional arias with an operatic falsetto. His notoriety began to spread, leading to a memorable appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1979 as backup vocalist for David Bowie.

For The Nomi Song, Horn has corralled a number of those who were a part of the singer's life in New York, and the narration-free film moves along based on the personal recollections (some of which are not always complimentary), interspersing the chronological storytelling with rarely seen performance footage and even some archival interview footage with Nomi himself. The thing that struck me was the honesty of those who looked back on Nomi's life, and the stories are not sugar-coated, especially during his AIDS-ravaged final days when no one would visit him out of fear of catching the disease.

This is one of the untold thousands of ultimately heartbreaking rock and roll stories out there, and though Sperber's admittedly weird transformation into Klaus Nomi ended tragically, it is really just another sad but true story. But most of those get forgotten somehow over time, replaced by someone new, who will eventually be replaced again. Andrew Horn revisits the brief and inventive flash across the face of music by an operatic alien, making the lyrics of Nomi's After the Fall seem almost prophetic:

After the fall, we'll be born, born, born again...
After it all blows away...


Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Andrew Horn's film is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, and like many docs is made up of material from a variety of sources. The "new" interview footage looks very bright, with rich, warm coloring, which plays well against Horn's use of intentionally stylized black-and-white/grainy transitional sequences that balance out some of the archival footage of Nomi and his early performances, which is often poorly lit.

Image Transfer Grade: B+

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in modest 2.0 surround, a pleasing, full-bodied mix (actually a step above most documentary audio tracks) that delivers clearly resonant voice quality during the interviews. For a film that on the surface would seem to be built around music, the hiss-free audio track is simply adequate without being gaudy,

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 34 cues and remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Gunner Palace
2 Deleted Scenes
16 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Andrew Horn
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Audio Remixes
Extras Review: There are a wealth of extras on this release from Palm, led by a commentary track from director Andrew Horn. This is one of those tracks that serves as a nice compliment to the documentary, with Horn having the opportunity to expand upon all sorts of Nomi backstories, as well as adding insight from having been there himself. Very informative, and a nice compendium to his film.

Next are a pair of deleted scenes, running six-and-half minutes, anchored by a moving four minutes from photographer Michael Halsband discussing the plans he had to take some photos of Nomi during his final days in the hospital. A set of scenes referred to as Additional Footage—which are essentially deleted or extended scenes—is made up of 12 separate segments, and includes Man Parrish telling a funny story about changing his look while singer Lou Christie (Lightning Strikes), who didn't make it into the final cut at all, talks about his curiosity about having to meet Nomi after hearing he covered Christie's big hit single. The New York Premiere Party (14m) segment covers the film's well-received opening.

There are also three rarely seen Full Length Performances (single songs, actually) of Nomi performing live, and consist of Adrian and the Mutant Dance (03m:48s), The Cold Song (04m:50s) and After the Fall (04m:55s), as well as four brand new remixes of two of Nomi's biggest singles. The remixed tracks, which are audio only and play over a static menu screen, are Total Eclipse: The Atomic Party Mix by Richard Barone, Mon Couer—L.H.O.O.Q. Mix by Ana Matronic of Scissor Sisters and Seth Kirby, Total Eclipse: The Man Parrish Mix by Man Parrish, and Mon Couer—The Moog Cookbook Mix by Moog Cookbook.

Lastly, an easy to find easter egg spells out Nomi's Lime Tart recipe, as featured in the film.

The disc is cut into a healthy 34 chapters.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

The one-time Klaus Sperber, who reinvented himself as the enigmatic performance artist/rock star Klaus Nomi, cut a brief and unique swath through the arty post-punk scene in the early 1980s with his operatic falsetto and new wave alien appearance, and close friend Andrew Horn has painted an affectionate and sometimes honestly blunt look at the meteoric flash that was Nomi's life. The recollections from Nomi's onetime inner circle are comical, sad, and not always complimentary, but Horn's use of scenes from It Came from Outer Space to bookend his film is apropos beyond words.

Highly recommended.

 


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