Dalida tells the story of the Italian-Egyptian singer who made her life in France and was, and still is, hugely popular in French-speaking countries and other parts of the world. She was and still is a musical icon who became almost mythological after her suicide in 1987. For the unfamiliar, Dalida was and probably still is as big of an icon to some as Cher and Madonna are in the US.
Based on the book by Catherine Rihoit and Orlando and written by Lisa Azuelos in collaboration with Orlando and Jacques Pessis, the film version is directed by Lisa Azuelos. As is often the case with biographical films, this one is filled with information on Dalida, from her childhood to her death, including everything that influenced her and her music including the deaths of more than one of her loves and her need to feel like she belongs. Her career was her life, the stage was her home, and the public was her family. Once she felt disconnected from this and had not much to fall back upon, her life felt empty. This is shown here in detail with a lot of scenes that were perhaps added or guessed at as she is shown on her own quite often. Nevertheless, the film builds a story that feels real and resonates. Dalida is shown as an icon, but also a very human woman with a need to love and be loved.
In the most important part in the film, the part of Dalida, Yolanda Cristina Gigliotti, is played by Sveva Alviti who does fantastic work bringing the iconic woman to the screen in a respectful and full of glam manner, in a manner that Dalida herself would have most likely loved. According to IMDB, this is the actress’ sixth credit, showing that this is a talent that she has in her. Her lesser experience here is not an issue and she shines in a part that cannot have been easy to play. Dalida is still famous and beloved these days, something that must have put incredible pressure on her and her performance. Through this, she shows the talent needed for heavy parts and parts that are closely watched by many. Playing the many people around Dalida are a plethora of actors and actresses who are very well known in some cases (Jean-Paul Rouve, Vincent Perez, Patrick Timsit, etc) and newer performers (Niels Schneider, Valentina Carli, etc) and all of them do good work. The casting here is good, some may or may not look all that much like the real person they are portraying, but their talent is what matters here. Also, the team behind the scenes truly did work hard on how to make Sveva Alviti look as much like Dalida as they could, to complement her acting.
The film as a whole shows a great attention to detail from the décors to the costumes to the small details here and there; it’s all carefully planned and done. The set decoration by Delphine De Casanove and Dévi Tirouvanziam recreates each era see, each decade, with a ton of detail and a lot of small touches here and there such as the correct wall coverings, the right shade for sofas, etc. The costume design by Emmanuelle Youchnovski is exquisite. Of course, Dalida was heavily documented, especially during her onscreen and scenic appearances, so there was plenty material to pull from to create the costumes here, but the attention to these and the rest of her wardrobe goes beyond copying the clothes she was seen in. It creates a full-on style for her in front of cameras and in her life. She is Dalida everywhere, at all times. The costumes are also complemented by perfect hair and make-up, the latter transforming lead actress Sveva Alviti into Dalida to a point that is amazing. The makeup team, under department head Emma Chicotot and the hair stylist team working with Delphine Lacaze and wigmaker Virginie Berland all do work that must be noticed and noted.
The film’s cinematography by Antoine Sanier elevates the film well beyond just another biography. It takes it and makes it look like a grand spectacle, a great and fantastic show. The film looks like something Dalida would be proud of, something to go see on the big screen if possible. It looks grand and expensive; it creates a visual universe that can be dived into.
Dalida is one of those biographies that transcends the artist on screen and gives the viewer much more than a peep into her life; it gives them a full view of how she was, who she was, of her feelings, and what led to her becoming such and icon as well as what led to her untimely death. It’s a big production like Dalida would have surely liked, but it does not skip on the darker moments of her life. It does fill in the information that could not have been known, but it does so with class and a respect for the artist and woman that she was.
For those unfamiliar with who Dalida was to her public, here is a video of one of her performances (not from the film, but from the lady herself on television: