A Musical Biopic Low Note.
DIRECTED BY LISA AZUELOS/FRENCH, ITALIAN, ENGLISH, ARABIC/2017 (U.S. Theatrical Release)
Telling the blow-by-blow story of the life of famed Egyptian singer Dalida, this ornately rendered biopic, for all its decades-spanning production value, falls very flat very quickly. Primarily covering the 1950s through the 1980s, Dalida traces the glitzy yet unfulfilling life of the title personality, one doomed relationship after another.
Though Sveva Alviti is entirety convincing in the lead, there’s a bizarre non-aging quality about her character’s continuum. Dalida looks and presents essentially the same way in the late 1950’s as she does during a glittery disco comeback in the late 1970s. Again and again, Dalida finds the troubled singer caught up in a blissful night with a new lover, only to abruptly smash-cut to her lying alone in a dismal hospital room, post-suicide attempt, soul-dead and recollecting the previous scene.
On the whole, Dalida is yet another film that exists to tell us how miserable it is to be rich, famous, beautiful, and talented. The tragedy of it all is oppressively continuous, yet lacking any true personal inroads in terms of relating to this person. It is a crucial miss.
In the end, the film undermines the singer’s legacy in the eyes of fans and novices alike. Those who know her will find her story too bleak to love, perhaps even repelled from what they once loved, whereas anyone learning of Dalida’s true story for the first time will have had enough after the first thirty minutes.
No expense appears to have been spared in terms of period wardrobe and settings, though every drape in Dalida is pulled shut. If one moves beyond the many entertaining performances re-enactments, what we’re unfortunately left with is a dim, aloof slog of a movie hellbent on fixating on its own shadows. Though the music stops cold several times, it’s difficult to ever truly grasp the fundamental unfulfillment of Dalida. And that is the tragic unfulfillment of Dalida.