Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5. France, 2016. Bethsabée Mucho, Pathe, TF1 Films Production, Umedia, Universal Music Publishing, Rai Cinema, Les Productions Orlando, uFund, Jouror Productions, Canal+, TF1, Orange Cinema Series, HD1, Region Ile-de-France, Wildside. Screenplay by Lisa Azuelos, collaboration with Orlando, Jacques Pessis, based on the book by Catherine Rihoit, Orlando. Cinematography by Antoine Sanier. Produced by Lisa Azuelos, Julien Madon, Jerome Seydoux. Music by Jean-Claude Petit. Production Design by Emile Ghigo. Costume Design by Emmanuelle Youchnovski. Film Editing by Baptiste Druot.
Born in Cairo to Italian parents, Iolanda Gigliotti eventually made her way to France where, under the stage name “Dalida” (an accidental mispronunciation of her Egyptian stage name “Dalilah” that stuck) she eventually took over the European pop music industry. Glamorous, statuesque, her voice velvety and her manner always enchanting, Dalida was as plagued by tragedy in her personal life as she was successful on stage, so it’s no surprise that the mini-industry of Gallic biopics that began with the success of La Vie En Rose (and continued through the Serge Gainsbourg film) would finally make her the subject of a film. The results, unfortunately, are cheap and flimsy, for while Sveva Alviti makes a lovely choice in the lead (she looks and speaks enough like her), Lisa Azuelos’ brainless direction rushes through biographical bullet points and focuses on the singer’s sad love affairs without ever getting at the individual. Dalida had an alarmingly high number of exes who committed suicide, so it’s easy to see why her men would be the chapter headings around which the story would rotate, but the woman who sang songs about “caramels, bonbons et chocolats” actually suffered to do so physically, and exploring this would be a much more interesting film. Problems with her eyes from childhood meant that stage lights caused her a great deal of pain, the trauma of the bullying she suffered as a young woman never left her and her conflicts with men aged her very quickly so that, by the time she died in 1987 at the age of 54, she was pretty much worn out. The irony of something so harsh happening to someone whose work was easily written off as insubstantial is one that never occurs to Azuelos, who instead gives us a flat Behind the Music television special with badly lip-synched performances that are painful to watch.