One of the music and art world's most unique talents, Klaus Nomi built quite a name for himself during his brief time on Earth. Born in Berlin, Germany in 1944, Nomi (born Klaus Sperber) showed a strong interest in opera music from an extremely young age---both as a listener and singer. One of his first jobs found him working as an usher in the Berlin Opera, though his attempts at becoming a singer there proved unsuccessful. Frustrated, he left Germany and moved to New York City in the mid-70s, taking a job as a pastry chef in the World Trade Center. Despite his success in the culinary world, his love for music found him performing as a nightclub singer---all the while developing his "Nomi" alter ego. By the end of the decade, Klaus was touring through the US and Europe, performing unusual New Wave electronic versions of classics by Donna Summer, Chubby Checker and others.
Klaus' unusual voice set him apart from typical singers: displaying an incredible dynamic range, Nomi pulled double duty as a counter-tenor and baritone vocalist. It was unusual enough to attract the attention of one David Bowie, who eventually hired Klaus as a backup singer (leading to an infamous musical appearance on Satuday Night Live on December 15, 1979, followed by several subsequent appearances). He would record his self-titled debut album the following year for RCA---as well as a unique version of Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling in Love" as a single---though the full-length album wouldn't be released for another two years. Shortly thereafter, Nomi's sophomore effort (titled "Simple Man", 1982) found him exploring even stranger territory, as he played up his unusual appearance and vocal sensibilities to appreciative audiences around the world. Although he was never a household name, the peak of his career in the early 1980s showed Nomi to be a formidable musical force.
Unfortunately, Klaus Nomi passed away from AIDS-related complications on August 6, 1983. He's often noted as the first "celebrity" to die from the disease, though his musical legacy lived on through word-of-mouth and a handful of posthumous album releases. His memory is also preserved through The Nomi Song (2004), a striking documentary from director Andrew Horn (his first effort since 1988's The Big Blue, not to be confused with the Luc Besson film). From start to finish, The Nomi Song paints a fine portrait of Klaus' life and accomplishments, combining tons of interviews with a generous dose of home movie footage and public performance clips. Though the film's attempts to integrate classic sci-fi footage into the documentary---a style Nomi was especially influenced by---comes across a bit heavy-handed, the visual style remains consistent throughout its 96-minute running time. For those who respect his talent and unusual persona, The Nomi Song will be a entertaining and memorable viewing experience.
If you're still not convinced, Palm Pictures has put together an excellent DVD package that complements the film perfectly. From the appropriate packaging and menu designs to a host of excellent bonus features, there's enough vintage material here to satisfy any fan. Additionally, a solid technical presentation ensures that The Nomi Song---undoubtedly destined for cult status---looks as good as possible, despite the limits of the vintage source material. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality:
Presented in its original 1.78:1 aspect ratio, the anamorphic widescreen transfer for The Nomi Song looks quite good. Older footage---including live performances and behind-the-scenes glimpses---are a bit rough around the edges, though this is undoubtedly a source material issue. Newer footage and interviews exhibit fine detail and excellent color balance, with only a hint of interlacing throughout. The only distracting detail in the visual department was the director's tendency to horizontally stretch most of the older 1.33:1 footage, resulting in a few scenes that appear mildly distorted. Still, The Nomi Song looks excellent; after all, it belongs to a genre where visuals are rarely the star of the show.
The film's 2.0 Dolby Digital Surround presentation also shows the obvious limits of the vintage material, but it still gets the job done. Dialogue, sounds and music come through clearly, with a few select musical numbers finding their way to the rear channels. The film has been presented in English, though a few scenes are spoken in German and presented with burned-in Enlgish subtitles.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging:
A fine presentation effort from Palm Pictures, highlighted by attractive and easily-navigated menus (seen above). This 96-minute film has been divided into a generous 34 chapters, and no layer change was detected during playback. Most of the film-related extras are presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widesceen (thumbs up!), though neither the film or bonus features are presented with English captions (thumbs down!). The packaging is another highlight, as this one-disc release is housed in a clear keepcase with eye-catching artwork on both sides. No inserts have been included.
The most unexpected highlight of this release is a broad assortment of extras, starting off with an Audio Commentary by director Andrew Horn. There's small patches of silence scattered throughout, but Horn does a good job of filling 96 minutes with plenty of interesting anecdotes. Next up is a pair of Deleted Scenes (7 minutes), including footage of Klaus' last shoot with photographer Michael Halsband. There's also a slew of Deleted Scenes (50 minutes total), from several personal testimonies to an interesting look at "Aunt Trude's Doll House" as built for the documentary (and an Easter Egg with a recipe for Klaus Nomi Lime Tarts!). By far, though, one of the most invaluable extras is next: a trio of Full-Length Performances by Nomi ("Adrian and the Mutant Dance", "The Cold Song" and "After the Fall", 14 minutes total)---the latter two clips haven't been seen since they were originally performed.
We're not done yet, though: there's also a handful of original Audio Remixes of Nomi's vocal performances by Richard Barone, Ana Matronic (of Scissor Sisters) & Seth Kirby, Man Parrish and Moog Cookbook (audio only, 16 minutes total). Rounding out the film-related extras is video footage from the documentary's New York Premiere Party on February 1, 2005 (14 minutes), as well as the original US Theatrical Trailer. Lastly, there's a handful of Previews for other Palm Pictures releases and a small selection of related Weblinks. Overall, a fantastic batch of extras that fans of Nomi will really love.
It's certainly not for all audiences, but those who appreciate what Klaus Nomi accomplished during his short time on Earth will enjoy this release from start to finish. Palm Pictures has done an exceptional job with this DVD package, combining a fine technical presentation with an exhaustive set of bonus features. It may never rise above cult status, but The Nomi Song is a passionate portrait of a very interesting subject, assembled with care by those who sincerely respected him. Here's the icing on the cake: at under $20, there's a terrific amount of content for the asking price. Hands down, this is one of 2005's most well-rounded DVD releases and comes Highly Recommended.
Randy Miller III is an art instructor hailing from Harrisburg, PA. To fund his DVD viewing habits, he also works on freelance graphic design and illustration projects. In his free time, Randy enjoys slacking off, general debauchery, and writing things in third person.