Nico Icon

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One of those figures who elevate ennui into an art form, or at least a way of life, Nico had a kind of night-of-the-living-dead glamour which fascinated anyone (mostly men) who spent time with her. A teen model for Vogue, she landed a bit part in La Dolce Vita, had a son by Alain Delon, and hooked up with Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground to cut one classic album. As a chanteuse, she made Marlene Dietrich sound girlish. As a performer, she was utterly opaque - but then that seems to have been her way off stage, too. She didn't have a career, she had an addiction. It was the only thing she shared. Bonding with her son, she introduced him to heroin, and later, when he was hospitalised in a drug-induced coma, she recorded the sound of the life-support machine as a backing track for one of her songs. This is a compelling portrait of an unlovely beauty, a fascinating void. Using extensive home movies, especially from the Factory period, interviews with the survivors (John Cale, Paul Morrissey, Sterling Morrison), and clips painfully contrasting the glacial ingenue with the elegantly ravaged junkie, writer/director Ofteringer probes the enigma without finding much of substance behind the surface. But what surface! The film's formal inventiveness - games with framing and superimposition - gives it some of the texture of '60s underground film, and there's a strong sense of that whole pseudo-bohemian scene. You don't come out feeling any warmer towards Nico, necessarily, or desperate to dig out those solo albums, but there's something haunting about her; she didn't so much make her mark as leave us the scars to remember her by.

Release details

Duration: 72 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Susanne Ofteringer
Screenwriter: Susanne Ofteringer
Cast: Alan Wise
James Young
Helma Wolff
Nico Papatakis
Carlos de Maldonado-Bostock
Edith Boulogne
Billy Name
Paul Morrissey
Jonas Mekas
John Cale
Viva
Sterling Morrison
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