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film review

Trine Dyrholm plays the titular role in Nico, 1988.

  • Nico, 1988
  • Written by: Susanna Nicchiarelli
  • Directed by: Susanna Nicchiarelli
  • Starring: Trine Dyrholm, John Gordon Sinclair
  • Classification: 14A; 93 minutes


3.5 out of 4 stars

When Andy Warhol said that everyone would have their own 15 minutes of fame, he may have been looking at Christa Paffgen, his muse, model and sometime Velvet Underground singer who went by the name Nico professionally. With the attractively depressing art-house biopic Nico, 1988, Paffgen gets 93 admirable minutes.

Aside from quick flashbacks to her avant-garde prime, it is the last three years of the German-born Paffgen’s unhappy life that Italian filmmaker Susanna Nicchiarelli focuses upon. Blunt, unpleasant and regretful, the singer is a heroin-addicted handful. Haunted by her one-time fame and a troubled son who she wasn’t able to raise, she embarks on a European tour with a bad band and the result is chaotic.

The title role is handled with unvarnished honesty from Denmark’s Trine Dyrholm, with the rest of the cast mostly staying away. The fading star Paffgen says methadone makes her “sentimental,” an adjective that does not apply to this authentic film. “I’m selective about my audience,” says the singer. “I don’t need everybody to like me.” With a dour, sophisticated film that won’t be to everyone’s taste, writer-director Nicchiarelli seems to have taken those words to heart.

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