'Dalida' film review: Portrait of a superstar/troubled romantic
Long before the most recognizable superstar singers, there was an international French diva who recorded songs in 10 languages and was the first artist to earn platinum and diamond honors. "Dalida" (screening during SIFF's French Cinema Now 2017 mini-festival) tells the much more interesting story of the singer's stormy personal life off-stage.
In short: Following a suicide attempt in 1967, international singing superstar Dalida's life is examined by three men in her life: her brother, ex-husband and former lover.
Dalida's songs beautifully provide a personal soundtrack for the turbulent love life of a romantic in search of something that eludes her, always just out of reach: love. Her soulful ballads underscore her tragic string of boyfriends and lovers.
Sveva Alviti is perfectly cast as the glowing superstar as well as troubled and depressed woman behind the microphone. "Dalida" presents the duality of her ever-rising celebrity contrasted against her increasingly erratic love life and Alviti proves the perfect choice for this intimate portrait.
Most biopics fall into the same trap: most just recount the bullet points of the subject's life. "Dalida" creatively sidesteps this typical pitfall - at least in the beginning. Her recovery from a suicide attempt is a compelling framing device that allows those closest to Dalida to reflect on her life as a woman and as a singer.
Unfortunately - about an hour into the movie - this interesting take on Dalida's life begins to follow the same track of many other biopics. The movie erratically lurches through her adult life - stretching from the late 1950s through the 1980s. The film whiplashes the audience with its inelegant transitions - 'Dalida' jumps upwards of almost a decade in time at some points. These abrupt leaps through time and space, often with little direct or obvious connection, hurts the film's overall flow and momentum.
For a film that opens with such a promising framing device, "Dalida" becomes quite a perfunctory biopic in its second half. It lacks a clear goal or conflict. All that is made clear is Dalida's life is not quite how she envisioned it. This is not the most powerful storytelling tool as its lack of conflict decreases the film's stakes. All that's left is a film that hits the requisite bullet points in Dalida's life.
Final verdict: While "Dalida" doesn't have the most cohesive story arch, it is a character study of superstar of radiant appeal contrasted against her creeping hopelessness. The movie earns bonus points for excellent casting and a thoughtful soundtrack curation.
"Dalida" screens during French Cinema Now 2017. The French biographical drama is unrated and has a running time of 124 minutes. It opens in select cities this fall and will stream on VOD services this December.