The Nomi Song posterThe life and death of avant-garde, semi-operatic, highly Germanic, proto-new wave musical performer Klaus Nomi. At its best, the film offers insight into the congregation of weirdo misfits in NY that produced crazy cabaret/vaudevillian entertainment, when, as one interviewee put it, people could go to New York and live on fumes.

I’m not sure exactly when all this transpired because Andrew Horn either didn’t want to bother with dates or felt they were irrelevant; in either case, this was a major flaw in the film, especially one devoted to changing fashion. One photographer (I don’t know who – the film also failed to identify people as they were speaking or to explain their relationship to Nomi) stated that he could only capture the surface of Nomi, and surface is all that the documentary captures as well. It is quite a surface, however! There are suggestions of sweetness and loneliness, but it’s mostly robotic stage movement, Elizabethan cones, triangular lip lines, and outfits so outlandishly geometric that they prevent Nomi from even sitting in a chair on a German talk show.

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His death from AIDS came when the disease was first called a “gay cancer” (we don’t know when – again, understanding the social/medical aspects of AIDS requires explicit chronology), and even his friends were afraid of catching it from visiting him on his deathbed. One must imagine how sad and scared and abandoned he must have felt, but you’ll have to conjure the image yourself; the film doesn’t get far beyond his stage persona to reveal a human being capable of even being in such a position. Or perhaps it’s a testament to Nomi’s meticulous self-creation that no one can get that far.