“She was almost proud of the fact that her teeth were rotten, that her hair was grey…her skin was bad, she had needle tracks all over. She liked that. That was her aesthetic.”
The above quote, attributed to James Young – Nico’s keyboard player from 1981-86 – summarizes the often harrowing watch that is filmmaker Susanne Ofteringer’s 1995 documentary, . It was Young who penned the fascinating on-the road-with-Nico tell all, Songs They Don’t Play On The Radio, chronicling his days in her ad hoc touring band. But unlike Young’s book, which is frequently injected with (and buoyed by) levity, Ofteringer’s Icon is a meditative, often dark, look at the woman born Christa Päffgen. Christa Päffgen, whose pseudonym ‘Nico’ was coined by photographer Herbert Tobias, rose to fame as a teen model working with powerhouses such as Chanel and Lanvin. However it was her involvement with Andy Warhol and his notorious Factory that raised her to icon status. Providing the female vocals for the Velvet Underground and producing six solo albums, Nico’s deep melancholic voice was a lingering soundtrack to the 60s and 70s.
While hardly wholly representative of Nico the artist/muse/person, the film is an engaging 67 minutes beginning with Nico’s early years modeling in Germany and France, onto to her Zelig-like existence moving through sixties pop culture (Iggy Pop, Brian Jones, Jim Morrison, Alain Delon, Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol…) and beyond. And it’s the beyond, Nico’s “desire for her own annihilation”, and heroin, that looms heavily over the remainder of the film.
Take note that the biopic Nico 1988 I have previously posted about is currently being made. I really hope it will do her justice. In the mean time it’s always interesting to get ”the real thing”. nico :: icon is and will remain the best documentary ever made about Christa Päffgen, so far…