“La vie m’est insupportable… Pardonnez-moi.” (“Life is unbearable for me… Forgive me.”) … this becomes very clear on the very last minute of this biopic of one of the most versatile popstars of the past century. Dalida, or simply Dali, had it all! Born from an Italian family who emigrated to Cairo during the Mussolini years, and after becoming Miss Egypt in 1950, Dalida landed in Paris to conquer the world, and the rest is history!
Director and co-writer Lisa Azuelos did a meticulous work gathering the highlights of her life in 2 hours. After a trend of successful biopics in the French cinemas: Piaf, Gainsbourg, CloClo, Yves Saint Laurent and most recently Barbara, it is clear that the French are masters of this genre. Azuelos in some of her press interviews says the movie is like an “extreme unction”, a redemption for the diva. Dalida who still endures one of the most successful careers, left without answers. Her departure was devastating, and the film somehow tries to explain this. Why this extraordinary woman, who was ahead of her days and became France’s sweetheart, left everything behind?
Sveva Alviti is a crucial part on this jigsaw created by Azuelos. She previously mentioned if she couldn’t cast Dalida herself, she wouldn’t have a film. And this makes sense. Alviti who came from a modeling career suits the role as the perfect slim petite Italian diva. Having seen some other actresses portraying Dalida in the past, Alviti at the start seems a bit too fragile for this role which appears too big for her shoes. However during the film she grows and delivers an impressive performance (in her final scene at Dalida’s Montmartre house while she applies lipstick, you could mistake her for the real Dalida). Her Italian accent does help to build this strong woman portrayed by the press, who behind the curtains and tv appearances was such a lost soul.
Azuelos considered French actresses for the role but realized that she had to be Italian. Alviti was cast for the role even though she couldn’t speak a single word in French but once chosen, she immersed herself seven days a week during the next 6 months to master the language.
Throughout the whole film, from her fragile and bullied childhood in Cairo, you can see Dalida’s life being cocooned by all, and during her adult years, mostly by her caring brother and manager Bruno, masterly played by Ricardo Scamaccio.
At one point, Dalida says “Death prowls me around”. After the troubled Luigi Tenco and her close ex-husband and good friend Lucien Morisse suicides, respectively played by the gorgeous Alessandro Borghi and Jean-Paul Rouve, this becomes obvious. Also having chosen not to have her own child earlier in life, was a decision that haunted her till her very last days. She had it all, and yet had none! Her life was doomed by drama and tragedy. Like the good diva she was, Dalida was tired, insecure and towards the end, despite her new ventures as an actress, she was lost and getting forgotten, as the glamour of the sixties and seventies no longer existed.
Alviti manages to hold herself very well during these moments. Unfortunately however it was no surprise that she lacked the stage presence and stardom when doing the show pieces. She did a great job and all the Dalida fans will be grateful to see a respectful homage (with the blessing of Orlando, of course!). With the 70s over excited and camp as Christmas synchronized dancers, this film really has it all, just like Dalida had! A great treat to watch.
Review by PETER HARRINGTON : Contributing Editor