Thursday, February 16, 2006

Nico Enigma

First, it was the documentary about the obscure artist. Then the one about the obscure author. And last night, to round out my trilogy of obscurity, I watched "Nico Icon," about the strange German chanteuse of "The Velvet Underground and Nico" fame. If fame is the right word.

NicoIt's hard to know what to make of a woman attractive enough to become a model who hated both modeling and her own attractiveness. Whose singing voice was atrocious and yet sometimes oddly hypnotizing. Whose Bohemianism went so far as to include hooking her own young son on heroin. Yet it's undeniable that it's just such details that make her story intriguing and compelling. It's also easy to see how she would have influenced all those black trenchcoat–wearing Goth kids. She was Goth before Goth was Goth.

Released in 1995, the documentary features interviews with the folks who knew her, including her son, Ari, and lots of footage of her modeling, acting, singing, and even being interviewed. The number of other famous people with whom she mingled reads like a who's-who of 1960s and 70s pop culture: Andy Warhol, Jim Morrison, Federico Fellini, Jackson Browne, Iggy Pop, and so on.

She died in 1988, years of heroin addiction having wasted her body, though the proximate cause of her death was a bicycle accident. In the end, her life was as bizarre and mysterious as the songs that she wrote. From "The Line" (also known as "Saeta"):

At a crossing of the line
Everything you need is mine
Everything is a big vision
A decision must be signed

A given voice
A given choice
A losing limit centerpoint
A given voice
A given choice
A losing limit centerpoint
I would give them all they need
Everything they know and read
But they must cross the line
The line