Cinematic Releases: Dalida (2017) - Reviewed

The life and death of legendary singer Dalida is presented by director Lisa Azuelos in an expected, but extremely elegantly packaged treatment. In the wake of her suicide, the troubled starlet has become a gay icon in France and still holds the record of being the only European performer to receive the World Oscar of Recording Success twice. The film chronicles the tumultuous relationships that defined her glitzy, and often broken-hearted existence up until her tragic end. 

Dalida is told through memories of the various men who loved her. The film has sparked controversary, with the daughter of Dalida's husband, Lucien Morisse stating that the portrayal of her father is inaccurate and that she was not consulted during production. Azuelos collaborated with Orlando to write the script, which, despite using a non-linear format, is extremely straightforward. When the subject's life is broadly publicized, the importance of the details in between the big moments is what defines the biopic's strength. Azuelos forgoes capitalizing on secrets and conjecture in favor of celebrating the moments of happiness that were defined through periods of sorrow and inconsolable loss. 

The presentation is decidedly European, featuring glamorous costumes and vintage compositions that encase Dalida within a deceptively pristine daydream. This is peeled back to expose expected instances of abuse and dysfunction, but the juxtaposition between public chicanery and private anguish is one of the film's strongest elements. Antione Sanier's glitzy cinematography captures Azuelo's musical world of broken angels in a perfect symmetry of light and darkness. Emotional turbulence and muse-like performances are balanced through thrilling colors and star burst lighting that combine to remind the viewer that while she was flawed, Dalida was always majestic within the hearts of her fans, instilling her music with a haunted sense of vulnerability. 

Sveva Alviti gives an unexpectedly grounded performance, demonstrating her comprehension of her subject's sadness throughout the film's two hour run time. The musical numbers are among the brightest spots, with Alviti's wounded supernova throwing decades of pain and romance into songs that elevated everyone around her, simulating the often-ignored plight of those desperately in need of a helping hand. This is a feat that could have easily been communicated via camp or melodrama, but Alviti keeps everything within plausibility, despite overstaying the film’s melancholic welcome. The fatal flaw lies in pacing and narrative, taking an eternity to get to a foregone conclusion with an ice-cold recounting of the tragic price of fame. 

Coming soon to theaters and digital on demand, Dalida brings nothing new to the genre of musical biopics, but it explores its subject matter in a truthful, and immaculate presentation, highlighting the director's passion for the life of her subject. While the film doesn't present any surprising revelations other than exhaustingly documenting a lifetime of sorrow, it relays this in a respectful and absolutely beautiful combination of a wonderful central performance, enticing musical sequences, and astonishing visual compositions.

Share this review.

-Kyle Jonathan