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Nico, 1988
Nico, 1988 (2017)
  • Director:
    Susanna Nicchiarelli
  • Category:
  • Writer:
    Susanna Nicchiarelli
  • Cast:
    Trine Dyrholm,John Gordon Sinclair,Anamaria Marinca
  • Time:
    1h 33min
  • Year:
The last year of singer Nico's life, as she tours and grapples with addiction and personal demons.
Credited cast:
Trine Dyrholm Trine Dyrholm - Christa Päffgen a.k.a Nico
John Gordon Sinclair John Gordon Sinclair - Richard
Anamaria Marinca Anamaria Marinca - Sylvia
Sandor Funtek Sandor Funtek - Ari
Thomas Trabacchi Thomas Trabacchi - Domenico
Karina Fernandez Karina Fernandez - Laura
Calvin Demba Calvin Demba - Alex
Francesco Colella Francesco Colella - Francesco
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Freddy Drabble Freddy Drabble - First Radio interviewer
Matt Patresi Matt Patresi - Second radio interviewer

Nico, 1988 (2017)

The flashbacks to the 60s show Nico in footage shot by Jonas Mekas.

John Waters named this among his top ten favorite films of 2018.

Everyone involved in the creation of 'Nico, 1988' deserves a huge amount of praise and respect for creating a film so unflinchingly honest, so authentic. Nico, eternally dressed up in others' wardrobes, in others' colours and artistic mirages, has finally been depicted on screen for who she really was, and because Christa Paffgen was infinitely more fascinating than 'Nico' ('Don't call me Nico, call me by my real name', she says early in the film to her new Mancunian manager, revealing the agenda of the filmmaking), 'Nico, 1988' is truly captivating.

'Nico, 1988' isn't a film for Velvet Underground fans (although I am most definitely one of those, especially the first two albums), and it isn't a film for anyone who believes Nico was a charming soft rock folk star after her VU years (songs written by others, yet more attempts by men to 'create' their warmer, sexier version of the Germanic, marketable beauty of Nico); not unlike her own music, this a film that is almost for no one, namely her passionate yet miniscule fan base ('No One Is There'). As Paffen says in the film, 'I'm selective about my audience'. That some people appear not to be able to understand this film or come to it with the wrong expectations seems in a strange way perfectly fitting. Nico is still ahead of her time, thirty years after her death.

Nico was one of the most interesting human beings of the twentieth century, which was probably the most fascinating, most cruel, most bizarre and most eventful century in human existence, and she seemed to experience most of what those years had to offer. Despite that, despite the myriad of famous people she dated, had children with and took heroin and LSD with (those looking for 'that' Nico are looking for the wrong Nico), depicting her on screen was never going to be easy, and as a massive fan of Nico's art I was going to be one of the hardest viewers to win over (I even bought a harmonium directly because I adored her music and songwriting, so casual fan I am not).

Not only did the film's authenticity suspend my disbelief, I was entirely convinced that Trine Dyrholm actually was Nico. In a better world, surely her performance would win an Oscar, but alas, too few people even know Nico's reality, know her mannerisms, know her booming funereal, avant-garde music that sounded hundreds of years old yet at the same time cutting-edge and far more intellectually advanced than her peers' guitar-based conventionality to truly appreciate how brilliant her homage to Paffgen is. She shows us the real Nico, the blunt, honest, temperamental, paranoid, bitter, at times disarmingly sweet, funny, suffering Nico, the Nico who was unable to be a good mother despite how much she loved her son. Nico, the completely unpretentious heroin abuser who was used up and spat out from the most pretentious of worlds: modelling, art and music, worlds people endlessly wanted to talk to her about with wide, hungry eyes. Nico seemed to live the life of a hundred people, to have experienced everything, yet she appeared to be the most lonely, broken and misunderstood of people, fuelled by a furious black flame of talent and a brutal honesty that most people could never come close to relating to.

Naturally, Nico was extremely wary of people, especially her own fans or anyone who revered her, and her on stage performances could be more like sneering attacks on the Lou Reed-wannabe poseurs in attendance. 'Nico, 1988's most thrilling and important scene is when an initially sceptical and heroin-craving Nico performs 'My Heart Is Empty' in Communist Czechoslovakia at an underground illegal gig for a small hardcore crowd. The fevered Nico seems to tap into the forbiddenness of the event, the authenticity, the risk, these are her people for once, this is real, she seems to be enjoying herself for the first time in the film. But like everything in Nico's existence it is a fleeting happiness, as the police raid the event and the band is forced to get into a packed car and flee the country before they end up in prison.

Nico's music was the sound of defeat, it was the sound she heard as a child that never left her, that continued to ring in her ears and haunt her for her entire life, the sound of bombs dropping on Berlin at the end of World War 2. As one world ended another was created, a new Europe, an apparent new hope for the western world, with liberation for women, for minorities, an exciting new playground of sexuality and hedonism to explore. Nico lived long enough to experience the emptiness of humanity both as the sound of bombs fell and as the sound of raucous New York Warhol parties went on into the night, and as the sad song says, 'Is That All There Is?' To Nico, both the sound of the bottom and the sound of the top were ghostly, transitory illusions, neither as real nor as powerful as her booming harmonium and harsh Germanic accent that still unnerves and inspires in 2018.

Hopefully this film encourages more people to listen to the real Nico and give her music a chance, for the difficult, scary and suffocatingly intense beauty of Nico's individuality deserves never to be forgotten, especially in a world that becomes more plastic, disposable and artistically barren by the year.
"Nico, 1988" (2017 Italian-Belgian co-production; 93 min.) is a bio-pick that examines the last 2 years of Nico, the German singer/performer who because instantly famous in the mid/late 60s for her association with Andy Warhol and of course her collaboration with The Velvet Underground. As the movie opens, we are told it is "1986" and we get to know Nico, who is moving into a small and unremarkable house in gray and gloomy Manchester, England. She is about to tour with her new band, made up mostly of second or third rate musicians, but her manager can't afford better. Along the way we see Nico struggling with her heroin addiction. At this point we are 10 min. into the movie, but to tell you more of the plot would spoil your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Couple of comments: this movie is directed by directed by Susanna Nicchiarelli, whom I admit I am not familiar with. In fact, much of this Italian-Belgian co-production features a cast of unknowns, except for Danish actress Trine Dyrholm in the title role (we saw her most recently in the excellent "The Commune"). Dryholme is absolutely sensational as the latter day Nico, and she carries the movie on her shoulders (she is in virtually every frame of the movie). On top of that, Dryholm also does her own singing of the various songs from Nico's solo albums that we hear and watch throughout the movie). Is everything that we watch in this film truly an accurate reflection of how those last two years of Nico's life? I haven't a clue, but one does get the sense that there is a good overall narrative in this film, for whatever that's worth.

I likely would've missed this film but for the fact that during a recent family visit to Belgium, I heard about this and then read an interview with Trine Dyrholm in a Belgian magazine. The movie opened the very weekend I was there. The Friday early evening screening where I saw this at in Antwerp, Belgium, was attended okay but not great. That's hardly a surprise as this isn't the type of movie that will find a large mainstream audience. But if you are interested in learning more about Nico's latter years in life, you could do a lot worse than watching this movie, and hence I'd readily recommended you do (I have my doubts this will get a theatrical release in the US so check it out on VOD or eventually on DVD/Blu-ray).
I rated this 8/10. Maybe I should have rated it higher. There are parts of this film that I am not sure if they are flawed or genius. A bit like Nico's ouevre, so that is perhaps appropriate. I was utterly transfixed for the duration of the movie. And yet by what I do not know. Relatively little happens. There are long silences. Yet both what is said and not said manages to restlessly slip away from cliche, and at the end I felt like I understood something I did not understand before. I am not sure who I could recommend this film to, yet I feel like I experienced something masterful
A haunting emotional bio pic that showcases the woman behind the haunting voice that has resonated with so many disaffected youths since the 1960's.

This film portrays the last two years in the life of Nico, a broken drug addled woman, who at this point is basically doggy paddling in a nihilistic swamp of a lifefull of regrets and disappointments.

The film revolves around Nico's final tour across europe with a new band. I'm a big fan of Nico's music, and thought this was extremely well done, and I'm extremely critical of bio pics. Trine Dyrholm is fantastic in the role. Bravo!
"Nico, 1988" is an Italian/Belgian co-production in the English language that premiered back in 2017, so still a relatively new movie and this one runs for a bit over 90 minutes. Writer and director is Italian Susanna Nicchiarelli and her work here is certainly on course for becoming her most known work, maybe her biggest success too, if you take a look at all the awards attention it received already. If you take a look at the David di Donatello Awards, where it won a lot and was nominated even more, it feels baffling how lead Tryne Dyrholm got nothing for her portrayal of the title character here. She really is the heart and soul of the film no denying. Her turn as Nico (Christa Päffgen), muse to Lou Reed and Andy Warhol and singer of Velvet Underground, is one thatg really deserves all the awards attention it can get, but obviously this is neither a movie, nor a subject that will make any waves at all come North American Awards season half a year from now. Quite a pity. but this should not take away from the excellent portrayal Dyrholm is giving her and I was really positively surprised by that as what I have seen other stuff from her and not liked some of it at all. But here she does shine and help the fact that some supporting performances and characters are oh so forgettable, more than they were supposed to be in the shadows of Nico. There is major focus on her relationship with her son too and there as well Dyrholm nails all the parts without ever trying too hard at all. The music is a crucial component here. How much you like the movie will have nothing to do with how much you like the music. One character calls it "atrocious" on one occasion and that's a fitting description at times I cannot deny. Some of it is really not great to listen to and that was intended, it's not Dyrholm's failure or anything. But there are also songs and performances that really make a positive impact, especially in the second half of the film and that stay in your head and ears for a while perhaps. And regardless of what you think from some of her songs, they always feel raw and from the heart, but maybe just as ugly as the person singing them and it's fitting how she feels she is only real when she is ugly looking at the quote on one occasion about how she was not happy when she was beautiful, even a model. Nonetheless, the best song in here is Alphaville's "Big in Japan" and this is an easy choice as it also comes with the best scene of the movie when we see Nico and her gang driving slowly along a large group of people celebrating the Day of the Dead and Nico's role as well as her son's in that event are not meaningless at all, even if at least she is not directly a part of it all. But yeah, Nico's rendition of said song during the closing credits is a highglight too. Normally I leave the theater quickly when these credits roll in, this time I was definitely all in until the curtain closed. So yeah, I thought this was a subject and character I would not care too much about, but the longer the movie went, the more I was drawn in by Nicchiarelli's and Dyrholm's work. And I learned a lot seeing this one, some pretty interestting stuff. One of the best character studies I've seen all year, even better that it is all based on real events and (some) real characters, and it all feels so easy with the film never trying to truly make an impact. Maybe not the best title as it is not just about 1988 and you never find out why she is called Nico, but that's fine because you realize early on that she doesn't like the nickname, so why do a great deal of elaborating on it. The definition of talent, there were definitely moments when i felt 3 stars out of 5 wasn't enough, but I don't give half stars, so I guess we have to leave it at that. Of course, I give this one here a positive recommendation and thumbs-up. go check it out.