Whenever I write a music review, I usually end up drawing clever/lazy comparisons to other artists, but I honestly wouldn’t know where to begin with Klaus Nomi. A beguiling figure in New York’s new wave scene in the late ‘70s, most people ended up likening Nomi to an alien simply because he seemed so unlike anything else on this planet. With his robotic charisma, layers of makeup (at least ten times more than Adam Ant ever wore), outlandish outfits and eerily gorgeous operatic falsetto, Nomi made even the most extreme hangers-on in Andy Warhol’s Factory look like frumpy Midwestern housewives (and, he was a pretty accomplished pastry chef to boot).

Yet, much of the world barely remembers him. Andrew Horn’s documentary is more a loving, almost elegiac effort to reintroduce this cult figure into a post-Marilyn Manson world than an attempt to figure out the man behind the mask and explain his artistic significance. Horn charts Nomi’s progression from unassuming Bavarian immigrant to celebrated cabaret scenester to weird, wannabe Europop icon until his AIDS-related death in 1983 with obvious (but acknowledged) debts to BEHIND THE MUSIC and its ilk. The mere fact that, despite his otherness, Nomi’s career trajectory mirrored so many of his more renowned contemporaries is somewhat at odds with Horn’s explicit riffs on the alien theme (he uses scenes from the sci-fi classic IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE as a framing device). The film also meanders and focuses too much on talking head recollections, indulging in Horn’s artier tendencies while losing some of its punch.

Still, your enjoyment will obviously depend on how well you take to Nomi himself. Although I’m not ready to rush out and acquire the man’s back catalogue, I found the vintage footage Horn employed often mesmerizing: the grainy video of Nomi’s early performances at Max’s Kansas City, an unlikely profile on a local news station, a mysterious concert with an unidentified, regal symphony orchestra, and, most spectacularly, a 1979 gig singing backup for David Bowie on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE that borders on surreal, subversive overload. Even at his archest, it’s apparent that Nomi carried the merited air of an otherworldly, tragic diva, as if he somehow knew he was just too unique to last long in this world. And I’d rather hear his bonkers interpretation of “Falling in Love Again” again than Marlene Dietrich’s.