Nico Icon

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Nico Icon

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Most people know Nico, if at all, as the icy Teuton who shared vocal duties with Lou Reed on The Velvet Underground's landmark debut album. While there's something appropriate about this—it's easy to imagine Andy Warhol appreciating his creation's fame being primarily confined to one memorable moment of his own orchestration—the path to and from that collaboration, as the documentary Nico Icon makes clear, is both sad and fascinating. Born Christa Päffgen, Nico traded upon her striking looks to become a highly sought-after fashion model and less highly sought-after actress (look closely for her in La Dolce Vita) in the '50s and early '60s. After having a child with Alain Delon, Nico fell in with Warhol's Factory set and The Velvet Underground, and her salad days were followed by a string of celebrity lovers and a protracted descent into drug-fueled self-destruction in the '70s and '80s. That her death ultimately was the result of a fall from a bicycle is the final, bizarre twist in an already bizarre life. Relying largely upon rare archival footage (a bizarre music video with Iggy Pop is especially notable) and interviews with those who knew her—from an eloquent John Cale to the son with whom Nico shared her heroin habit—Nico Icon doesn't delve too far beneath its subject's mystique, but this doesn't really work against it; it makes sense that a woman who spent her entire life cultivating an impenetrable exterior would be able to retain it after death.

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