Author: Ryan Deussing --- Date: 01/23/96 --- Copyright: ThingReviews NYC

Film Forum
209 West Houston Street
New York, New York
Jan 3, 1996 - Jan 16, 1996

RD: Why Nico?

SO: Because I started listening to the records of the Velvet Underground when I was sixteen. Later, when I heard on the radio that she was born in Cologne--that's where I'm from--I thought that there had to be an interesting story behind her life.

RD: Does Nico have the same "cult" status in Germany that she does here in America?

SO: Not really. When I started out with the project it seemed to be a very unpopular subject. She really isn't too well-known in Germany. There are some people who are really dedicated fans, but there's no kind of wider audience for her stuff.

RD: What sorts of material and information did you uncover about Nico while filming?

SO: I didn't really know that much about her when I got started, except that she had sung with the Velvet Underground, but I soon started finding out more about her modelling career, which took her from 50's Germany to Paris, and so on. It was only through research that I became familiar with her own music, which was unavailable in Germany at that time.

RD: The film discusses Nico's transformation from a model into a figure of the NYC underground. Why did she throw away the life of a model?

SO: She got into modeling when she was fifteen, and I think she was unsatisfied from the beginning with the role of being there just for other people to look at. She was looking for something else. She tried acting and played in a few films, and then she tried music. She recorded a single in England even before she met the Velvet Underground and this was what she had when Andy Warhol found her and got the idea of putting her and the band together.

RD: There seem to be two types of descriptions of Nico in the film. One is that she had no inner life, or that it was so deeply hidden as to be non-existent. The other is that put forward by her son, who describes her as a very complicated soul, "a true artist." Which is more factual?

SO: She is always referred to as having been somewhat distant and aloof, unlike other people. She certainly didn't enjoy small talk, and some people probably assumed that she didn't have anything to say, or that she was hiding something. Her "silent beauty" was also something that allowed other people to project upon her their own ideas of what she might be. But if you look at the songs that she wrote you can see that she certainly did have something to say, but she said it her own way, through music. She also cultivated a style of conversation that was too a certain degree based upon that of Andy Warhol. It was a game.

RD: Nico said that the only reason she didn't kill herself was that she was truly unique. Do you agree with her?

SO: There's a certain truth in her statement, but it's also very ironic. What made her unique was that she remained an icon, in a subcultural context, not just in the 60's with the help of Warhol, but in the 70's through French avant-gard films, and even in the 80's in Britain with New Wave music.

RD: It was interesting to hear from Nico's keyboard player how life on the road with her and her heroin addiction was almost too much for an experienced roadie, and yet she introduced her son, when he was a teenager, to the whole scene, including the drug.

SO: Well, you have to understand that Nico's son was raised by his grandmother, in France, and that his mother, with her bohemian lifestyle and mysterious reputation, was like a huge idol for him. I'm not trying to excuse anything, but he wanted to be a part of that scene as soon as he was old enough.

RD: What's the story of Nico's development as a musician?

SO: That's really the most telling part of her story, because she completely reinvented herself in her music. When she first started out, in England, they tried to market her as the typical girl of the swinging sixties and it was all wrong. Then she hooked up with the Velvet Underground, and most people only know her as that band's singer. But in her whole history with the band she only sang three songs. Then she taught herself to play a curious type of Indian pump-organ and created a style all her own, which has nothing to do with the image most people still have of her.

RD: Why do you think she claimed that her only regret was not being born a man?

SO: She would have been less of an object if she had been born a man. And also, I find that people construct differences--even with rock & roll figures --between what they expect from men and what they expect from women. Screening the film, I sometimes get the question: "But was she a good person?". First of all, the film leaves that kind of judgement to the audience. But then who ever asked if Bob Dylan or Mick Jagger or any male rock star was a good person? These people are evaluated according to their music and I think that's the way we should approach Nico as well.

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Could you please tell me if NICO ICON has a distributer? Can I expect to see this film anywhere near my "home town" (Baltimore/DC area) since I missed the screening at Film Forum?

klaus vom Bruch --

yes you can order the video at: cologne conference im mediapark 5b 50670 koeln - germany

Karen Hagglund --

Are there any plans to release Nico Icon on video?

Inger Kristin --

Haven't got any comments yet, but i would be very gladly if someone could send me som information, or tell me where to look for information about Nico. I'm suposed to write a project about her in school, and I think it's importent to now i bit more than I do now. I've seen the film Nic - Icon and rome reviews on it, but i feel i need something more