By Guru Ramanathan, Staff Writer
The task of making a biopic is far from easy. A filmmaker approaches the subject matter with nuance, wanting to pay respect to true events, but still craft an interesting narrative in the process. It is impossible to fit all the necessary details into roughly two hours, so certain creative liberties will have to be taken. Unfortunately, Lisa Azuelos, director of the musical biopic “Dalida,” forces so much of the titular international superstar’s personal life into the story that the film flounders as a flawed melodrama that does neither Dalida nor any of the prominent figures in her life justice.
The film chronicles the rise and fall of Dalida (Sveva Alviti), born Iolanda Gigliotti, and how her fame had a radical effect on herself, her family and the many lovers she had in her life. Azuelos has an eye for interesting visuals and intimate shots in some scenes. She certainly captures the overwhelming glamour that Dalida had to deal with and proposes the oft seen question in musical biopics: how must a star cope with public fervor as their fame and expectations escalate to astounding proportions? Unfortunately, Azuelos only scratches the surface of this complex matter, despite the number of times it is blatantly brought up in dialogue.
An interesting aspect of the film is how Dalida’s fame has the power to destroy the lives of those around her, specifically the men in her life. However, this is also one of the shortcomings of the film. Nearly every new man Dalida meets, she winds up having an affair with him a few minutes later; in ten or fifteen minutes Dalida is heartbroken over one lover and moves on to the next.
Eventually, the film’s narrative is so muddled that the sequence of events becomes confusing even with the aid of title card displaying dates and locations. Azuelos does not have a grasp on a coherent story. There are flashbacks at the beginning of the film regarding Dalida’s childhood, which are jarringly interspersed throughout the film and provide little significance to the story. She somehow ends up at an ashram halfway through the film, but it would seem the spiritual guidance has no effect anyway. Dalida led a fascinating and emotionally wrenching life, but the film feels frustratingly inauthentic. At times, it is a romantic drama, then a family tragedy or an utterly flat musical. Much of the dialogue feels overtly philosophical or romantic, but the emotional beats Azuelos is trying to hit feel unearned.
Perhaps the film’s biggest strength is the real Dalida. The film features twenty five of her songs, paired with an adequate score from composer Jean-Claude Petit. The songs give the film a vibrant energy that manages to salvage some scenes. Azuelos glosses over segments of Dalida’s rise to fame and crossover to international acclaim with simple music montages.
Although Alviti gives a serviceable impersonation of Dalida, the singer barely develops as a person; she is always disappointed with her fame, is attracted to every man she sees and seldom appears as an active character. The story and execution will disappoint many viewers, but since the film uses so much of Dalida’s music, hopefully new listeners will turn to discovering the artist for the first time — and do some more research on her life.
“Dalida” will be released on VOD on Tuesday, Dec. 5.