Dalida – Lisa Azuelos

Lisa Azuelos’s film of one of France’s most popular singers skims over the surface of the life of the Egyptian/Italian artist to hone in on her disastrous relationships with men interspersed with a race through some of her most memorable hits. For a singer who sold over 80 million records worldwide, this is no mean feat.  But it’s doubtful if Azuelos’s pic will win over new fans to the troubled singer who successfully adapted her repertoire over decades in the music industry to become at one point the most popular female artist on the French music scene.  She is a fascinating, multi-faceted character who worked long and hard at her career and it’s disappointing to see her reduced to the role of victim in a string of unsuccessful love affairs. Too many faithful interpretations of her most famous hits such as Bambino or Il venait d’avoir 18 ans will mean little to an English-speaking audience and appear painfully out-moded and kitsch.  Dalida look-alike Sveva Alviti does a passable job of portraying the singer off-stage, but her interpretation of Dalida on-stage lacks the power, energy and emotion that made her such a magnetic live performer.  A good supporting cast including Patrick Timsit and the excellent Riccardo Scarmaccio as Dalida’s manager/brother fail to galvanise this pedastrian biopic

Born Yolanda Gigliotti in Egypt in 1933, Dalida left Cairo for Paris in 1954 and was soon spotted by two influential men in the French record industry.  Lucien Morisse (Jean-Paul Rouve) was the artistic director of Europe 1 and Eddy Barclay (Vincent Perez) owned the famous Barclay record label. A string of hits followed her discovery and she quickly became the darling of the French record-buying public. But her personal life was a disaster. After marrying Morisse, she fell in love soon after with Jean Sobieski (Niels Schneider), then the young Italian singer Luigi Tenco (Alessadro Borghi) and after Richard Chanfray (Nicolas Duvauchelle). All ended badly and the singer adored by the public ended her life a lonely women in her enormous chateau in Montmartre.

Azuelo hit paydirt with her 2008 hit LOL (Laugh Out lLoud) starring Sophie Marceau which was later turned into an American remake with Demi Moore and Miley Cyrus in the lead roles. Unfortunately the deft touch she displayed in LOL for understanding the female psyche is missing form Dalida. Florent Siri’s 2012 box office hit Cloclo detailing the life of the hugely popular French singer Claude François and Olivier Dahan’s  La Mome which earned a Best Actress Oscar for Marion Cotillard as Edith Piaf show how it should be done.


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