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Laramie Movie Scope: Nico, 1988

The last days of counterculture bombshell

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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November 29, 2018 – Nico, the attractive German platinum blonde who headlined the 1967 cult album “The Velvet Underground & Nico,” became an instant legend in pop culture. Less well known is Nico's real identity, and later career, as Christa Päffgen.

This dramatization of the last years of Christa's life as a middle-aged heroin addict, living on the road with a band, playing small gigs in Europe in 1987 and 1988, is not exactly uplifting. Gone is the blonde hair, gone are the glamorous looks that got her into the modeling business in her younger years. Gone is Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground. What remains? That is the question the film poses.

In the film, Christa (played by Trine Dyrholm of “A Royal Affair”) has tired of being in the band. She doesn't want to perform anymore. She doesn't like being called by her earlier stage name, Nico. She wants to be reunited with her son, Ari (real name Christian Aaron Boulogne, played by Sandor Funtek) now in his mid-20s. He had traveled with his mother at an early age, but has since lived apart, with his grandparents.

Christa is a mercurial figure, not tethered to reality very securely. She dreams of touring with her son, who is a photographer. The trouble with that idea is that Christa, Ari, and a member of her band are all heroin addicts. It is not the best environment for Ari, who is being treated for addiction. But he goes on tour with the band anyway, and falls for the band's violin player, Sylvia (Anamaria Marinca of “Fury”). As you can imagine, bad things happen.

Christa has an affair with band member Domenico (Thomas Trabacchi) during the European tour. The band manager, Richard (John Gordon Sinclair) tells Christa that he is in love with her, and her reaction is completely dismissive.

Trine Dyrholm does a great job of playing Christa. She also sings Christa's songs in the film, although it appears the singing was recorded in a studio, not live, since the lip synch is off. Archival footage of the real Nico is edited into the film. These appear as memories or dream sequences.

In one strange sequence, Christa has her best performance at an outlawed concert in Eastern Europe, but has to be hustled out of the venue early when the authorities arrive unexpectedly. A haunting scene shows Christa as a child, watching the glowing night sky over the city of Berlin, burning at the end of World War II.

According to the film, this movie is based on eyewitness accounts of the events depicted. The film depicts Christa being more satisfied with herself as an ordinary-looking woman than she was as a youthful beauty. She does not care that her music is not popular. She is comfortable with herself, her art and her Bohemian lifestyle.

I can see why Christa would believe this to be true. But where would Christa be without that beauty, without that modeling career, without Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground? Probably nowhere, but this movie would have you believe otherwise. This film rates a C.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2018 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)

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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]