NICO 1988 Review – Doom Cabaret at its Blue Best

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NICO 1988 ReviewNICO 1988 Review — The last two years of the singer’s tumultuous and too short life

Nico, 1988 is not an easy movie to like—because Nico (Trine Dyrholm) herself wasn’t all that likable. What’s more, the film focuses on the last two years of the singer’s too-short life, glossing over her cool and glamorous heyday in the 1960s as one of Andy Warhol’s most celebrated protégés.

When she was young, gorgeous, and desirable—she counted Jim Morrison and Alain Delon among her lovers. That would be the cinematic sweet-spot for most filmmakers. Not director Susanna Nicchiarelli; she shows us Nico’s diminishing world at its most tragic…and dull. But in its darkness is also its beacon: Nico, 1988 is an unapologetic slice of cinéma vérité with the same punk-rock renegade attitude as its subject: If you like me, fine. If you don’t, take a hike.

Nico was born Christa Päffgen, had a baby out of wedlock in the early 60s, then went on to cavort with Warhol and The Velvet Underground. She disappeared for a long time, wallowing in her habit and depression. She resurfaced in the 80s and went on tour. She was still an addict, was also overweight and had little concern for her appearance. At one point she also asks her manager, “Am I ugly?” When he relies yes, she says, “Good. I was so unhappy when I was beautiful.” In spite of all her failings, there was one thing Nico still had in ’88: That voice.

The onstage performances are so seamlessly recreated and gorgeously crafted, you may think you’re looking at vintage footage or listening to an audio dub. You aren’t. This is not a documentary. She was a little bit punk, a tad emo, and a whole lot of doom-cabaret. “I’ve been at the top, I’ve been at the bottom: Both places are empty,” she deadpans, holding a bottle of whisky in one hand and a lit cigarette in the other. Dyrholm nails Nico’s strength and melancholia, and yes, even her droll sense of humor.

This is definitely a niche film with narrow appeal. It’s not very informative and is far from fast-paced, but if you’re in the (morose) mood for a character study against a musical backdrop, Nico, 1988 fills the bill.

Rated R
93 Minutes

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NICO 1988 Review — The last two years of the singer’s tumultuous and too short life

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Staci Layne Wilson

Staci Layne Wilson is an accomplished writer / director / producer / film critic and the author the bestseller So L.A. - A Hollywood Memoir. Find her on

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