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 t... more »oo 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« less
""Regrets? I have no regrets. Except that I was born a woman instead of a man. That's my only regret." -- Nico, in an interview two years before her death at age 49. That line perfectly sums up how far ahead of her time Nico was, realizing how much what she was immediately judged on (her appearance) was inherently gender specific, and how much she hated herself for her physical beauty when it was her other talents she wished to be recognized for, but by the end of this film you'll be hard-pressed to imagine what those other talents might be. Naomi Wolf could use her as a textbook example of how being born physically beautiful can be detrimental if one's beauty is so striking that it eclipses one's accomplishments. In fact, "Nico Icon" is almost a misnomer for what the film fully illustrates. "Nico Iconoclast" would be a more apt title.A classic Teutonic beauty, all long legs, long neck, high cheekbones and icy disposition, Nico came to treat her physical beauty as a curse and spent her life trying her best to destroy what magnetized attention towards her because she had the intelligence to realize that there is no moral worth is getting attention for physical beauty alone because it doesn't imply any sense of accomplishment. Shattering the hegemony of the beholder. By the end of her life she had successfully managed to destroy her looks to the extent that she had been absolutely ravaged by her steady diet of heroin over the years and apparently was proud of her intravenous tracks on her arms and rotten teeth. A childhood victim of the second World War, when she was four years old her father was exterminated by the Nazis when a battle wound resulted in insanity-inducing brain damage. (I also just discovered in Transformer, the recent Victor Bockris biography of Lou Reed, that apparently she was raped by a German soldier as a child.) She was raised by her mother's sister (what happened to her mother is not adequately explained in the film) and must have felt such deep rooted fears of abandonment that according to one bohemian friend of hers in Paris she apparently never loved anyone, nor was loved by anyone, even though she had many "lovers," everyone from Jim Morrison (whom she called her "soul brother") to Jackson Browne and French film star Alain Delon whom she gave birth to a son with. The most poignant part of the film is when Delon's mother is interviewed and she explains how Ari, their son, was so neglectfully nourished as a child (Nico used to simply use her own sustenance of potato chips to take care of her baby's dietary needs as well) that she optioned to "adopt" the boy which precipitated Delon to have his mother "choose" between either he or his son. Delon's mother chose, obviously, to care for the boy and as a result of that decision Delon has not spoken to his mother in 17 years. When Ari went to live with Nico in Manchester at the age of 18, Nico turned him onto heroin, a substance that seemed to be the be-all and end- all of her life since, according to acquaintances, she had no interests. Nothing excited her about life. At all. (In post-Velvets live performances she frequently covered the Doors song "The End." I highly recommend the live album June 1, 1974 which captures an incredible version of her rendering of that song with John Cale, Kevin Ayers and Brian Eno.) Lou Reed, conspicuous in his absence as an interviewee, apparently was so smitten with Nico that he wrote the song I'll Be Your Mirror, perhaps one of the most tender melodies he's ever written, out of that phrase which she once uttered to him. The circumstances leading up to her leaving The Velvet Underground have always been shadowy, and no real resolution is identified in this film. John Cale attempts to shed some light on the apparently many factors involved which led to her dismissal which primarily boil down to the fact that she couldn't carry a tune, which is a cop-out, especially for such an experimental band. Sure, she wouldn't have been able to sing with, say, the Mamas and the Papas, but the voice she did have was full of expression and nuance, and her phrasing albeit erratic was very original, and the few songs she sang with the Velvets (I'll Be Your Mirror, All Tomorrow's Parties, Femme Fatale) are seminal classics BECAUSE of her voice, not in spite of it. In fact, a video of a song she recorded before hooking up with the Velvets called I'm Not Saying fully illustrates that what she may have lacked in range was made up for with a very powerful set of pipes to carry a song with. Regardless of the fact that she had no range, Nico's persona and artistic ambitions, the film makes clear, were unprecedented for female singers at the time: When all the other women in that era were either wearing short skirts or gingham dresses, she was always dressed in either black or white jumpsuits. As a result, Nico blazed the way for everyone from Yoko Ono and Patti Smith to Joanna Went and Diamanda Galas. The implication is that her drug use got so developed that she was more concerned with simply hanging out with Warhol's Factory crowd at a point when the Velvets wanted to progress as a band rather than just be part of Andy Warhol's Traveling Circus.In fact, Nico comes across as being so unappealing that by the end of the film you start to realize that perhaps, ironically enough, her physical beauty was all she really had going for her. WAS she raped? Does ANYONE she knew have anything nice to say about her? Any fond memories or examples of a tender side whatsoever?"
Fascinating glimpse into Nico's life
Jennifer L. Metcalf | USA | 07/19/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This documentary was filmed a few years after her death. Several people who knew her well are interviewed -- members of her band (both Velvet Underground and musicians who toured with her in the 1970s and 1980s), friends, her only child, Ari, and an aunt who helped raise her. "Unconventional" seems to be an understatement of her persona. One man who is described as a bohemian who apparently knew her before her Velvet Underground days, says that no one liked Nico and Nico liked no one. I'm don't think that's true, but the appearance is that she really didn't like herself, and that may be manifested in her habitual drug abuse and addiction. In the film, we learn that she introduced her young son to heroin, which resulted in his falling in a coma. When she visited him in the hospital, she brought a tape recorder and recorded the sound of his life support machine so she could use it on her next album. Nico's aunt from Germany, who helped raise her, gave some information on her early life. Nico was born in the 1930s and it sounds like she had to grow up in a hurry during WW II and even afterwards. There are film footage and stills from Nico's modeling days in the late 50s and early 60s. In her later days, one guy who toured with her said that she drew a knife and threatened to kill the driver of the band's van. I think it was the same guy who said that after being primarily noted for her physical beauty in her younger life, she was now proud of her rotting teeth and bad skin. She was clearly a troubled woman yet there is undoubtedly something mysterious about her that drew people to her. Some of the information in the film is very touching about Nico. But when we learn that she was irresponsible with raising her young son and other disturbing incidents, it's difficult to not to get angry with her actions. Nevertheless, it is heartwarming to hear her son (now in his late 30s) very proudly exclaim, "My mother was an artist." It's clear that he loved her. When asked, in a later interview, what her one regret in life was, Nico replied that she wish she had been born a man instead of a woman. This documentary touches on many aspects of Nico's life, and love it or hate it, I do think it's an excellent video for anyone even mildly interested in the dark German chanteuse. I also think that it's important to remember that people's opinions and perceptions of Nico are only that and not hard, cold facts. To think otherwise would be injustice to someone who can no longer speak for herself."
A rock heroine
M. E. Walters | 12/04/1998
(5 out of 5 stars)
"As a teenager, my friends and I knew of very few intelligent, deep, female stars to identify with. Nico would have provided a great alternative to Jim Morrison (a man) or even Janis Joplin (not exactly "intellectual" in the way Morrison and Nico were). Nico's story is tragic. Her family was broken apart by WWII. As she grew older, her identity was defined by her beauty and the fashion industry. Her choices over time reveal the rejection of that superfical identity. She refused to sing high and "prettily," and her lyrics are intelligent and clear about her psychological and emotional isolation. Over time, she becomes "ugly" intentionally, to free herself from the identity others wanted her to maintain.I disagree with reviews that describe her relationship with her son as "sordid." She was a part of the world of Warhol's Factory, and like Lou Reed and the rest she lived an extreme lifestyle. But she eventually quits heroine and is somewhat reconciled with her son. Seen anyone criticizing male rock stars for how they raise their kids lately?Her dark personality, severity, and intelligence are characteristics in women that aren't normally highlighted by the male-dominated media industry. And no wonder, she wasn't trying to please any men, so why should they be interested? It's unfortunate, though, for her music is haunting and powerful.Nico was as intense and talented as Lou Reed or Jim Morrison, and arguably with more to say, given her family and personal history. Yet she was relatively excluded from mainstream rock history. This is definitely a good movie, and Nico is great for girls and women who need an icon with the same intensity and power and talent as some well-known "tragic" male stars."
Best and Beautiful
' Groovin' guy | 05/20/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"How great it is to see Nico singing, talking.
Also features Nico's aunt as she recalls Christina's youth and how the both knew she'd become the successful Nico, model, singer and poet.
Her son Ari recounts tales with his mother "Heroin is a killer" he says.
Many of Andy Warhol's clique also speak of their personal memories of her, including Viva and John Cale
This documentary is very interesting even if you are not a fan Of Nico."
Haunting, and achingly beautiful...
M. E. Walters | Pittsburgh, PA USA | 12/19/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is one of those exceptional documentaries which takes as its subject someone whom virtually no one would want to know on a personal basis, and yet turns that subject into someone you can't help but be fascinated by, and even feel affection for. Regardless of how rabid a Nico fan you are (and I'm pretty rabid, myself), it's hard to assert that she wasn't an extremely difficult person to know, to say the least. I venture to say, though, that this film is as close as most of us will ever come to knowing what she was like, as it is a clear eyed portrayal that refuses to romanticize her personal struggles and unkindnesses, while at the same time not condescending to 'drugs are bad and gee, wasn't she weird?' cliches.
In another review, someone mentioned that Nico probably simply didn't care enough to live. I think that there is something to this; however, I would tweak that claim slightly to say that, perhaps, Nico never really saw herself as living in this world at all. She dwelled somewhere very near the curtain that separates this world from 'The Other'. Nico perhaps saw her physical beauty as a supreme twist of cosmic irony: the one thing about her that everyone seemed to agree on, and that was her meal ticket for years, was the least tangible and 'real' of phenomena to her.
In any case, Nico's music is exceptionally beautiful, and this documentary gives plenty of examples of that, as well as rare and revealing footage that you really can't find elsewhere. Even if you're only a casual Nico fan, or fan of documentaries, I highly recommend "Nico Icon"."