Venice Facetime: Susanna Nicchiarelli, Director of ‘Nico, 1988’

Italian director Susanna Nicchiarelli made a splash in Venice with her 2009 debut “Cosmonauta,” set during the space race between the Soviet Union and the U.S. She’s back on the Lido with “Nico, 1988,” about Velvet Underground lead singer Christa Paffgen, better known as Nico, who was among Andy Warhol’s muses. It’s a biopic of sorts, which focuses on the years 1987 and 1988, the last two years of Nico’s life, and stars Danish star Trine Dyrholm. Nicchiarelli spoke to Variety about her film, which opens the Venice Horizons section.

 

What drew you to the project?

 

Nico’s music, more than anything else: so bravely uncompromising, so painfully uncommon, yet so fascinating and important for all the music that followed, for the style and atmosphere it initiated… what I find surprising is how little this second part of Nico’s musical production is known, and how little everybody knows of her life in the seventies and eighties. And, most of all, how little she cared. How little she worried about being less known, less famous than before. She had no nostalgia, no sentimental longing for the first part of her musical career as opposed to the second. Maybe that’s the main reason why I fell in love with the way Nico had become in the eighties: this 40-year-old woman I saw in the interviews, so ironic and strong, didn’t care at all about the superstar she once had been, about the legendary beauty she had stopped being. Like her son once told me, she seemed indestructible. So far from the cliche of the fallen star, or the fragile forty-something missing her youth. I loved that she was so different from the cliche.

 

What sources did you draw on and how did you adapt that material into your screenplay which, as I understand it, is a re-imagining?

 

I based the film on a very long interview I recorded in Paris with Ari, Nico’s son. I also interviewed and met Alan Wise, Nico’s manager at the time, and some promoters of…

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