Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Nomi Song (2005)

It's a standard documentary (with a full complement of talking heads) about an artist. Documentaries like this always depend on the interest posed by the art rather than the artist -- the artist is inevitably an enigma about whom we learn almost nothing -- and the people making this film lucked out. Their film is about Klaus Nomi, a German immigrant who wowed the New York City art scene in the '80s with his one-of-a-kind musical act, and most times all the filmmakers have to do to hold interest is insert footage of the act. It's an odd, entrancing thing, comprised of equal parts opera, New Wave rock, cabaret, avant-garde performance and pop music, and the whole shebang is cemented by Nomi's off-the-wall space-alien persona. (It makes sense that this guy, more than most other artists, would come off as an enigma -- his whole act is predicated on the line between artifical and genuine, camp and serious.) Also, secondarily, the film becomes modestly affecting when we learn that Nomi's sexual predilections led to him being one of the first public figures to succumb to AIDS, back when nobody knew a damn thing about it other than it was killing gay people. It's hardly essential or life-changing, but it does well what a documentary is primarily meant to do -- it documents.

Grade: B


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