German director Susanne Ofteringer's sombre, hypnotic film documents the life of the Velvet Underground's chanteuse, Nico, from her beginnings as a model (she had the icy beauty of a Diana Rigg) to her death, in 1988, as a pallid junkie. Throughout the movie, Nico's music plays practically non-stop: enigmatic dirges of longing and bitterness torn from a soul drugged to numbness by her successive environments (postwar Germany, Warhol's Factory, life on the road). With extraordinary technique, Ofteringer paints a moody, melancholy picture of a legend who decayed into the ghost of herself.
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A striking and harrowing documentary about fame, drugs, pop culture, and celebrity, Nico Icon casts a harsh light on the underground world of pop art and music in the 1960s and 1970s through the prism of a girl who lived too hard and died too young. The German-born Nico is presented as someone who never fit in, no matter what she was doing, from her career as a fashion model in the 1950s (including an appearance in Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita) to her tenure in the 1960s as one of the cast of characters in artist Andy Warhol's "Factory" to her stint as a backup singer for Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground. Most of the film concentrates on her sordid relationship with her son with French actor Alain Delon and her decline into heroin addiction and obscurity. This visually innovative and challenging documentary doesn't judge her but uses her life to illustrate the excesses of the world around her. Nico Icon will be a revelation for those interested in the world it depicts. --Robert Lane
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