The Edinburgh Film Festival, at the Odeon. My first impression: I don't care for the Odeon. As a cinema, there's nowhere to sit and wait, at least the Cineworld complex has a couple of rows of airport seating and then upstairs, a Starbucks. I milled around after getting my Odeon ticket, the weather too windy outside to return to, the restaurant you enter through too expensive. My mind drifted to my beloved Cameo, with its cheap bar and intimate seating. If cinema is romance to me, then as a flirtation, my visit to the Odeon felt less a casual affair on the side than a visit to an industrial brothel, with a waiting room like a bus terminal.
And the film? I remember Egyptian friends talking about the singer called Dalida, the voice of the sea. The film shows her as a glamorous blend of Cairo, Rome and Paris, the latter two moulding her in adulthood as her career takes off. I thought of another tragic European singer of her era, Ana Jantar of Poland, but Dalida – from the evidence of this film – was more self-destructive. She is shown craving the stability of love, but she moves from one lover to another until finally settling for an absurd, self-proclaimed alchemist with maturity issues. She wants to start a family, but damage from an abortion leaves her childless. These are the decisions that come back to haunt her; despite loving support from her brother and sister, she grows lonelier with age. Some of her songs are hauntingly melancholic, especially 'Malady', in which she sings of her sickness, and then another song about growing old, alone, and the props she clings to.So I connected with her fate to some degree, not the glamour or the fortune or the talent, but the childless, single life in front of her that eventually overwhelms her. Viewers should be aware that this is a film about suicide, both of past lovers and her own different attempts. It is also an artistically and coherently designed spotlighting of familial love, as well as glamour and aesthetics, of lonely, beautiful people leading ultimately empty lives. To conclude, it was a film whose protagonist I didn't grieve for with tears, but one I left feeling melancholic and reflective of what life has to offer, not least in our final act.