Sometimes it is interesting to be reminded that an artist/entertainer can achieve enormous success and fame in the world and still be relatively unknown in the U.S. Such is probably the case with Dalida, whose career spanned three decades from the mid-1950’s to her untimely death in in the mid-1980’s. She sold 170 million albums world-wide and enjoyed enormous success in Europe (especially France), the Middle East and parts of Asia.

Dalida was the first singer to receive platinum and diamond discs, and received more than 70 gold records. And yet before watching the recently released vibrant biopic Dalida, I had not heard of her, nor had several other what I consider to be culturally aware Americans whom I queried.  For those not familiar with the singer, the movie provides a rewarding introduction to her talent.

Born in Egypt in 1933 of Italian parents and raised in Cairo, the film follows Dalida, whose real name was Iolanda Gigliotti, from her youth, which appears to have been somewhat troubled. She had an eye malady while a child, was bullied at school, and her father was arrested as part of the World War 2 conflict.

Discovered at a Paris talent contest in the mid-1950’s she quickly shot to fame as a prominent singer in France.  In Madonna-like fashion, Dalida maintained a celebrated career for a number of decades, re-inventing herself as something of a disco diva in the 1970s.

While Dalida enjoyed enormous and long term success professionally as a singer, her private life was not so fortunate. The film chronicles a number of relationships with men which ended tragically (a former husband and two of her lovers committed suicide). Dalida herself would end her life in 1987. In the juxtaposition of an enormously successful career with a troubled personal life, Dalida’s life bears a certain resemblance to that of Judy Garland.

Despite the basically tragic arc of the story, there is a buoyancy in the film to which the many musical numbers contribute. Director Lisa Azuelos and editor Baptiste Druot seamlessly integrate the musical sequences into the story line, and the cinematography of Antoine Sanier contributes to the smooth yet kinetic atmosphere of the movie.

As Dalida, Sveva Alviti is compelling and charismatic. A model as well as an actress, Alviti’s portrayal is all the more impressive as she apparently had few screen credits before being cast in the role. Alviti bears a certain resemblance to Julia Roberts and her performance is winning and confident.

The film is something of a reminder that outward success does not necessarily translate into inward happiness. Perhaps it is hard to live your life on a pedestal when virtually everyone else is standing on the ground. Despite the tragic overtones it is worth re-iterating that the film is generally quite entertaining to watch, with the memory of the expertly lip-synced concert sequences featuring Dalida’s actual voice furthering a sense of buoyancy long after the movie is over.

Dalida was released on Video On Demand on December 5.