There’s a certain familiarity that greets the opening scenes of Dalida. As the French-Italian singer checks herself into a hotel room, her song ‘Un po' d'amore’ is heard on the soundtrack. Though the lyrics are foreign, the tune is easily identified as ‘Nights in White Satin’. Similarly, this biopic’s beats are instantly recognisable. A series of interviews disclose the story of a chanteuse who overcame an impoverished childhood to attain fame and fortune but remained unlucky in love. Nevertheless, Dalida includes enough variations in its composition for the film to succeed on its own terms.
After her lover's suicide leads to Dalida making an attempt on her own life, friends and family cycle through a psychiatrist’s office looking for answers. A portrait emerges of a woman who is both easy to love and easily falls in love. Promoter Lucien Morisse leaves his first wife for her, only to be abandoned when she takes actor Jean Sobieski as her lover. When her brother Orlando assumes control of her career, he encourages a tour of Italy which leads her into the arms of ill-fated singer Luigi Tenco. After a long period of recovery Dalida finds comfort in Lucio (a young fan of Tenco) and later Richard Chanfray, a media personality who claims to be a 17,000-year-old alchemist.
Given that half of the people mentioned in the above synopsis commit suicide, the film remains surprisingly buoyant thanks in large part to the spirited performance of former model Sveva Alviti in the title role. Though Dalida’s struggles with depression and bulimia are given their due, the depiction of the singer in the throes of first love (and second love and third love and so on) as well as the joy she exudes on stage, keep the film from becoming excessively dour. Granted, the film can at times resemble an over-priced perfume commercial, but there are enough individual touches from director Lisa Azuelos to pique one’s interest.
The film is crammed full of hits from Dalida’s catalogue, including her versions of ‘Those were the Days’ and ‘Bang Bang’. However, featuring the latter song on the soundtrack while one of the aforementioned suicides takes place is an unfortunate misstep.
as Jean Sobieski
as Luigi Tenco
as Bruno Coquatrix
"The image that is given of my father is terrible. I don't want people to believe that Lucien Morisse could have been as insensitive and self-interested as the film shows…[He] had absolutely no need of Dalida to survive, as the film suggests… Creative freedom cannot justify everything and no one is honoured by hurting my family so deeply and unnecessarily, and by undermining, through the manipulation of facts, the memory of people who have disappeared, including that of Dalida with whom my father had remained a very good friend, and who had always shown me great affection."
Only reference to Dalida’s film career is a behind the scenes sequence from her last movie, The Sixth Day