Lili (1953) Poster

(1953)

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10/10
The most truthful coming of age movie
eadoe5 April 2007
Of all the popular overblown, oversexed "coming of age" movies (mostly about male coming of age - starting with "The Summer of '42"), none has the honesty and truth of "Lili". Why? Because coming of age has less to do with sex (as most men think) than it has to do with an awareness of evil. The most telling line in the film is spoken by Paul's partner, who chides Paul for slapping Lili and says, "She is realizing that there is cruelty in the world, and she is learning to protect herself from it." Like Eve in the Garden of Eden, Lili's loss of innocence comes with her knowledge of evil, not her loss of virginity.

And unlike other coming of age movies that have the young actors tossing around "cute" sexual comments that don't ring true for a callow young person (because they were obviously scripted by a jaded 50-year-old male), "Lili" rings true with every note (as Paul says, "She's like a little bell that gives off a pure sound every time you strike it."). Her naivety is far more true to form -- when she is warned by one of the puppets that the lecherous puppet Renaldo "is a wolf", the innocent Lili replies, "I thought he was a fox." This is exactly the way a kid would really respond -- not "getting" the sexual reference and thinking that the comment was about the species of the animal.

I understand Audrey Hepburn beat out Leslie Caron for the Oscar that year with her amateurish performance in "Roman Holiday" -- what a travesty that was, since Audrey's performance had none of the depth and exquisite vulnerability of Leslie's performance in "Lili".
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9/10
A sweet little film and a great classic!
Nazi_Fighter_David25 July 2002
Warning: Spoilers
'Lili' opens in the bright atmosphere of a French town with a likable 16-year-old orphan looking for a job with her deceased father's old friend... Lili soon discovers that the place is close and the baker with whom she came to work with has died a month ago...

With no money, no family, and no place to go, Lili meets Marc, a delightful entertainer who offers her a job as a waitress in a traveling carnival show...

Marc's hilarious blend of comedy and magic leaves the wistful Lili roaring with laughter... Marc is breathtakingly good on stage... He is blessed with the fastest hands in the business... Lili is fired, that same night, for spending too much time watching his whole act...

Feeling intensely sad, hopeless, drained and helpless, Lili thinks of killing herself... She begins to climb a highly wooden staircase, ignoring a gently voice calling her to come along... She is distracted by a group of character puppets, who helps her forget her sorrow...

Lili is introduced to Carrot Top, the interesting fellow capable of running his life and everybody else; to Golo, the cowardly giant longing to be loved; to Reynaldo, the thief and opportunist full of compromises and lies; and finally to Marguerite, the vain, jealous beauty obsessed with self...

Childishly happy with the colorful puppets, and not realizing that she is having a big impact, Lili receives the ovation that ignites her creative spark, responding to the four unique puppets losing herself in their questions and imaginations...

When she is asked to sing, Lili belts out an old song of love... The entire company of puppets behind her joined in for a stirring chorus... This was executed to perfection that night - accompanied by the waltzing music of the accordion...

The show is a hit! Lili's childish manner proves she can entertain, persuade and appeal...

But Lili remains dazzled by Marc, who reinforces his spoken humor with visual effects... She dislikes the boss, Paul Berthalet, believing him to be cruel, heartless, frustrated and always angry...

Mel Ferrer had the talent for improvisation... He uses his puppets with humor, voice sound effects, stories and more...He captures Lili's heart and soul... And by speaking through his models he was able to express his anxiety, curiosity, austerity, and confusion...

Lili, touched by the magic of romance, comes to understand the meaning of love much later... She tells Marcus: 'I've been living in a dream like a little girl, not seeing what I didn't want to see.' She discovers that the love exuding from her adorable puppets comes from the loves of that unreasonable, mean, jealous, bitter puppeteer...

Jean-Pierre Aumont adds his charm to the whole story, and remains the beautiful magician armed with an exceptionally likable stage personality...

Kurt Kaszner continues to be Paul's loyal and peaceful friend who explains to the delicate girl that the boss had once been a great dancer until his leg was injured in the war and could no longer dance...

Zsa Zsa Gabor behaves as the glamorous assistant whose fervent desire is to reveal to everybody her secret...

Charles Walters' motion picture is not very musical, but his film culminates in a delightful dream ballet... Caron demonstrates a graceful dancing...

The movie received six Academy Award nominations including Leslie Caron as Best Actress in a Leading Role, and won the Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture, and accommodated the hit song "Hi Lili, Hi Lo.'
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Sleeper Hit of 1953
tommyrockt10 April 2003
LILI, the 1953 film starring Leslie Caron in the title role, is one of the first examples of a screenplay being turned into a stage musical (CARNIVAL). Though it is common these days for Broadway to find inspiration in film sources, it was highly unusual at the time. It began life as a short story, with inspiration from the KOOKLA, FRAN AND OLLIE television program. Later made into a dark and unusual novella of sexual awakening, the tale was then adapted for the screen as LILI, a film which became the sleeper hit of 1953, eventually running in the same New York City theatre for almost 2 years. It's one, beautifully utilized song, "Hi Lili, Hi Lo" was an enormous hit and contributed to LILI's popularity.

The story, concerning the sexual and emotional coming of age of a young French girl, is unusual for its Freudian overtones and stark emotional mood. When young Lili (Leslie Caron in a gorgeously crafted and heartbreaking performance) comes to a small French village, looking for a family friend, she is devastated to learn that he has died. Without friends or family, she begs a job from a local merchant who sees her desperation as a sexual opportunity. When the merchant tries to rape Lili, she is saved by Marc, the handsome magician of a traveling carnival (Jean-Pierre Aumont). On Marc she foists all of her adult and childhood needs, her bursting sexuality along with her need to be cared for and loved. Eventually she begins working with the carnival but proves a terrible disappointment as a waitress in the carnival cafe. Lonely and desperate, she attempts to kill herself but is saved once again; this time by Paul the carnival puppeteer (a dashing Mel Ferrer in a fine performance) who speaks to her through his puppets, kindly Carrot Top, vain Marguerite, wily Reynaldo the Fox and innocent Horrible Henry the Giant. Paul, a former dancer, crippled years earlier in an accident, is full of anger and resentment but takes pity on Lili, who is so charmed by the puppets that, like a child, she forgets his presence.

The film explores their turbulent relationship as Lili becomes the star of the Carnival, charming patrons with an uncanny ability to speak to the puppets as if they are real. Complications arise as Paul begins to realize his own affection for Lili, while Lili continues to be infatuated with the magician, who's assistant (Zsa Zsa Gabor) is his wife.

With fine performances all around and an unusual atmosphere, the film has something of a cult following and is highly regarded for its frank and emotional nature. With its full-color cinematography, adorable puppets and carnival setting, this film might be mistaken for a children's story but deals, rather, with powerful adult themes. LILI may seem tame by today's standards, but given the conservativism of the 1950's as well as the strict production code in force at the time, LILI is rather shocking.

There is a very unusual dream sequence late in the movie which attempts to explore certain aspects of Lili's psyche through dance. This sequence is not entirely successful, but manages to get its point across and leads directly to the film's moving final moment. It's subtle treatment of a difficult subject is inspiring. The loss of innocence, the retreat from childhood and the desperate need for someone to love prove compelling subjects in a film that is, though imperfect, haunting.
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an absolutely enchanting musical
vonnie-46 December 1998
"Lili" is one of the sweetest, most enchanting musicals Hollywood has ever produced. Not that most of the Hollywood musicals are ever realistic, but this particular story is more of a fable than an imitation of life. The character of Mel Ferrer is reminiscent of the Beast in "the Beauty and the Beast", a tortured soul aching for love, and as any girl worth her salt would know, tortured souls make the best kind of heroes!

The two dance/fantasy sequences are charming, especially the latter one, where Lili grows from an awkward, love-sick child into a woman of character and determination, all in a few steps of waltz. Oh, and the puppets are totally adorable!!
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10/10
One of the all-time greats
billy-712 June 2001
First of all, to correct a comment made by at least one person here, the movie came before the stage musical "Carnival." Second, the movie is far superior to the stage musical. True, it's short. So? True, there's just one song. But the one song, "Hi-Lili Hi-Lo," is better than anything in "Carnival." So much for comparisons. The movie absolutely defines movie magic. It creates an unforgettable world with an unforgettable heroine played with genius by the great Leslie Caron in a performance nominated for an Oscar and deserving of a win (she was beaten by the charming but less-inspired Audrey Hepburn). Anyone who passes up the chance to see "Lili" is denying themselves one of the prime treats in all of cinema. I've seen it countless times and never fail to laugh and cry. But where is the DVD??? Give, already!
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10/10
Charming film
gigilesmiz26 August 2002
This is one of my favorite films. It is so delightfully simple. Leslie Caron does a marvelous job of making us believe she is an awkward 16 year old in love with a magician. I can't explain exactly why I love this film--perhaps I'm a sucker for all in-love-with-someone-who's-in-love-with-someone-else stories, or maybe I have a soft spot for puppets. But this film warms me to the heart and I recommend it to all but the heart hearted cynic.
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10/10
Absolutely wonderful film
Jim Menke7 July 1999
"Lili", based on Paul Gallico's "Love For Seven Dolls", is one of the most delightful films ever. Leslie Caron deserved her Academy Award nomination as "Lili". The ballet sequence at the end of the film in which each puppet turn into Paul, the puppeteer, making Lili realize she loves him is magical. "Lili" was the basis for a big, lavish Broadway musical "Carnival" that lost the basic beautiful simplicity of the original. This film is a classic and deserves to be. The puppets are magnificent.
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9/10
Haunting and Beautiful
regrunion2 April 2003
Last night, driving with a friend, she popped a CD into the player in her car and Jimmy Durante's voice sang a song I had not heard in about 35 years - "Hi-Lili Hi-Lo." The emotion of this movie that I saw as a young child, perhaps six years old, came rushing back to me.

I don't remember a lot of things from when I was six but I do remember being entranced and a bit haunted by the movie Lili. I was easily able to relate to Lili's encounter with the puppets that became her confidants and friends when the adult world became too hard to handle. The initial charm of the magician character that, as all too often became the case for people in my young life, turned to emotional unavailability. The course by which Lili's fear of the puppeteer gets dissolved through understanding. And most of all the hauntingly beautiful song and dance sequence.

I don't remember much of the plot but I am very much looking forward to seeing this movie again. If it was available on DVD I would immediately buy it for my own children.
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10/10
Absolutely Exquisite!
Nissimo19 September 2005
This movie is my favorite movie of all time! The innocence and sweetness conveyed by Leslie Caron in this movie is supreme! You'll find no other film like it! Personally, I think it is better than an American in Paris. The reasons why I like it are almost inexplicable, however. I first watched it at age 16. Afterwards I felt like the world was a wonderful thing and that there was still purity in the existence. Leslie Caron's virginal character is so convincing that she doesn't even need to say anything to make the viewer feel that she is truly good. Mel Ferrers performance is also noteworthy. The chemistry between these two characters is real. This movie is often overshadowed by Leslie Caron's more popular films (such as an Gigi). However, I recommend that all movie lovers watch this film.
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10/10
Wonderful story...
hopey428 April 2005
In 1953 I was 5 and LILI was my favorite movie. My parents were cool enough to take me to see it 3 (THREE!) times and they even bought me the soundtrack record. I'd try to see it every time it played on TV over the years (not very often) and at college screenings. I taped it when it was on PBS not too long ago and now my granddaughter who's 5 loves it too. Talk about genetics! This is a wonderful, haunting story. Leslie Caron is PERFECT in the title role. The puppets are fabulous and the rest of the cast are brilliant. PLEASE see this if you enjoy "simple" romantic stories with no special effects, nudity, bad language, nor violence! Interestingly I have been married twice, my first husband was a puppeteer and my second (present) husband is a magician. Hmmmm...
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An enchanting tale of a trusting waif who has her eyes opened
dugfowlr14 August 2000
This is one of my all time favorite movies, and I have taken every occasion to see it again after the first time in 1953. Leslie Caron is perfectly cast as the homeless orphan who falls in with a circus troupe and becomes part of their puppet act, only to fall in love with the embittered puppet master. In the end, the lovers get together after Lili (Leslie Caron) gets to display her ballet dancing talents.
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10/10
One of the best, most beloved, films I've ever seen.............
Jem Odewahn12 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Why had I never really heard of this film until this week? I just watched "Lili" a couple of nights ago, and I was amazed by this truly special little film.

Lili (Leslie Caron) is a poor orphan waif, who is cast about on the world when her father dies suddenly. She goes to a baker shop looking for work, but the baker tries to sexually assault her. She is rescued by the handsome, charming Marc (Jean-Pierre Amount). Lili immediately idolises him and follows him back to his home, a circus where Marc is the magician. Marc arranges for Lili a job as a waitress, but she loses that, too. She turns to suicide as her only way out-- but is saved by the brooding, sad-eyed and limping puppeteer Paul (Mel Ferrer) in the guise of his 4 puppets. Lili's innocence and belief in the puppets attracts audiences night after night. Paul falls in love with her, but Lili only sees him as "the angry boss", not realising that the puppets represent the facets of his personality.

Running only 81 minutes long, "Lili" packs a lot of ideas into it's running time, yet never loses it's enchanting, fable-like simplicity. Probe the surface and you will find it's quite dark in it's subject matter (sexual assault, suicide etc). It's one of the best stories about "growing up" I have ever seen. And has anyone ever loved so well from afar as Mel Ferrer, with his haunting eyes? Cast aside somewhat as another MGM musical, "Lili" only really contains one song ("Hi Lili, Hi Lo", which Caron performs with the puppets) and two dance sequences. The dance sequences are simple yet surreal-- the final one has Lili, ready to depart from the circus, dancing with the four puppets, who one by one turn into Paul.

One of the easiest 10's I have ever given, and really it is a perfect little film. Your thoughts? I understand there is no DVD release. I saw it on VHS PAL (Australia). Come on people, this is a wonderful classic.

Later in the week:______________________________________________ I've now seen it three times and I'm in love with the movie. On subsequent viewings I have particularly enjoyed the rapport between Mel Ferrer and Kurt Kasznar, who plays Paul's confidante. Unlike many "buddy" relationships in films, this one doesn't feel forced.

The dance sequences contrast each other so well. And they are so much more than just musical interludes. The first sequence has Lili imagining herself as a rival for magician Marc's love-- in a glitzy red dress and heels. Lili is emotionally unformed, and, like many young women, equates attractiveness and sexual desire to love. Lili also imagines herself doing high kicks and running rings around her man.

But in the last sequence--the dance with the puppets-- Lili imagines a deep, complete love, where both her and Paul dance together. With the final puppet transforming into Paul, they dance slowly, his arms protectively supporting her shoulders.

Dismissed by some as showily surreal and as just a rip-off of the ballet "An American In Paris", this final dream sequence encapsulates Lili's discovery about life and love.
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8/10
the blossoming of the Lili is marvelous
this is quite an old movie, as you know. my mother wasn't even born when it came out. yet i enjoy it greatly. it is a true love story, and unlike movies of today's age, it depicts that love with elegance and style. it is not only about love, but about the "blossoming" of Lili, of how she grows into womanhood and learns the ways of the world, as well as her own world. personally, i find it all to be quite symbolic, with Lili as the symbol of good and innocence. it also has some interesting humor in it (the puppets are well characterized and amazingly personalized). i think you will fall in love with the well-rounded main characters just as i did. i hope people will not be turned off by the age of the movie (it is over 50 years old now) because i find newer love stories to be far too sexual that leaves nothing to the imagination. this movie is VERY imaginative and beautiful in its storytelling. of course, kids could watch it and enjoy it to some extent, but the language is slightly elevated and the meaning is quite deep. watching this movie as an older person truly made the difference. i hope you enjoy it.
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9/10
the dream sequence
APRIL-135 September 1999
I saw this movie as a kid with my parents and story had a strange but memorable effect on me. I always remembered the dream sequence as a bit frightening and I didn't really know what it meant (since I was only about 6 or 7). When I saw the movie again a couple of years ago it still had the same effect, although I understood the dream sequence at this point. (still a little strange). Overall it is a sad story about lost innocence (not too lost) that leaves me feeling a bit blue even though she gets the guy at the end. Overall, a great movie.
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10/10
Sweet And Charming Tale of Romance/ Warning: Some Spoilers!
louiepatti27 September 2004
Warning: Spoilers
The movie Lili is sweet and pure, much like the title character. Set in post-WW II France, the film is beautifully done, well-acted and well-directed, with a strange surrealistic flavor to it that saves it from being too cloying. An orphaned girl with no job and no discernible life skills attaches herself to a traveling carnival. She is charmed by a cavalier cad of a magician and charms an embittered, crippled puppeteer named Paul Bertholet. Paul hates humanity but loves Lili, who fears him in return. This triangle sets up the tension for the story. Paul uses his puppets to court the girl he dares not try to woo to her face. Her relationship with the dolls is so real, Lili very nearly misses who is truly speaking to her. In each puppet lies a facet of his personality: Golo, the clumsy yet kindly giant, who hides his fear by trying to be frightening; Margeurite, vain and petty, concerned with appearances above all else; Carrot-Top, the clever manager, solving the woes of others while seeming to have none of his own; and Reynardo, the lying thief, who's desperate to win the heart of the innocent waif, Lili. Through them she comes to know the hidden man, and Paul admits in his soliloquy that the puppets are his only way to reach out to this girl who so strongly charms him.(To her face, he can only show helpless anger that frightens her.) Lili's journey from overgrown child to mature young woman is revealed by the ballet sequences skillfully woven into the plot. The whole film comes across almost as a dream. Mel Ferrer is wonderful as the hurt Paul, long-limbed and elegant, believable as a dancer forced to work as a puppeteer. Leslie Caron gives a fine polished performance, considering her young age, as the title character. Jean-Pierre Aumont charms and annoys as the magician, and watch for a young Zsa Zsa Gabor as his annoying mannequin of a wife. Kurt Kazanar is solid as Paul's assistant Jacquot, dispensing advice he knows will be ignored, trying to be the voice of conscience to his friends. Though based on a series of stories that were eventually woven into the dark novelette "Love of Seven Dolls" by Paul Gallico, Lili morphed into a family-friendly story that is less powerful than the book but more palatable to the general public. The ballet dream sequence near the end, in which Lili uncovers the real man behind each puppet's personality and realizes how much he loves her, is absolutely enchanting. One by one, each character dances with her, except for poor clumsy Golo, who cannot dance. Instead, she runs to him and embraces him, and he changes into Paul, who in her dream can dance with her and does so to woo her. It is finally then that the girl loses her fear of the hurt man and races back to him. A wonderful movie for a rainy afternoon, not for action fans but a real treat for lovers of romantic tales.
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10/10
Charming movie; makes you want to say "awww."
Sharp-617 March 1999
What it is about puppet shows that make them so entertaining, whether in Lili or the Sound of Music?

Leslie Caron radiates innocence during the scenes where she speaks to the puppets. These scenes are so charming that you won't want to miss any of them.

Caron's "relationship" with the Ferrer, a seemingly gruff person who's gentle side is revealed only through the puppets, is crystalized in a final dreamlike sequence reminiscent of Dorothy and the others walking on the yellow brick road in Wizard of Oz. Except, here it's Lili and the puppets, now in "life size" form.

Throughout the movie, Caron is completely convincing as one who during the puppet shows believes she is speaking to the puppets as if they were alive. The innocence radiated by the puppets and her contrast greatly with the complexities and anger present in "real" life.

Indeed, Ferrer initially uses the puppets to rescue Caron from a moment of despair that might have been tragic and at another point, mistaking an action by Caron, actually slaps her.

Will Caron come to grips with, and accept, the fact that her feelings are not for the puppets, but for Ferrer, whom she knows only as an angry man she believes hates her?

I both cheered and felt tears welling up at the end of this movie. A sweet and timeless gem.
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10/10
Has quickly become a personal favourite
TheLittleSongbird6 July 2015
Didn't see Lili until fairly recently, but it is a film so irresistibly charming and well-done that it was so easy to fall under its spell.

Lili looks fabulous, the fantasy ballet sequence and Caron's scene with Zsa Zsa Gabor is shot in richly beautiful Technicolor, the puppets still look great- plus they manage to bring a slight creepiness too- and the MGM French village set is made superb use of. The Oscar-winning music score by Bronislau Kaper has plenty of appropriate whimsy, without falling into sugary sweet territory, and rousing lushness, while the song Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo lilts beautifully and accompanies one of the most memorable scenes in the film, in which Caron is seen singing along with the puppets, even more impressively.

The script is both witty and touching, handling a potentially difficult subject inspiringly and only in Stand by Me has coming of age been portrayed more honestly in film. The story is slight but never dull or too thin; it has the right amount of sweetness, has such a poignant charm and brings a big smile on viewers' faces afterwards. The Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo and fantasy ballet scenes are the most memorable, but youngsters surely cannot fail to delight in Jean-Pierre Aumont's dazzling magic tricks. Talented Charles Walters directs expertly, and even features in the fantasy ballet.

In terms of the performances, there are no qualms here either. Leslie Caron positively enchants here, while Mel Ferrer brilliantly brings a sympathetic edge to an at times dark role, particularly telling when with the puppets. Zsa Zsa Gabor is incandescently classy, and Jean-Pierre Aumont makes his magic tricks memorable and children and adults alike will love them.

All in all, irresistibly charming and has quickly become a personal favourite. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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10/10
Simply beautiful....
MarieGabrielle7 April 2012
A lovely story that is not trite, and of course Leslie Caron, who I admit I am partial to, is excellent here.

As Lili, a disaffected orphan struggling in sadness, to find some kind of life. Mel Ferrer as a mysterious puppeteer who falls in love with her from behind the scenes. The story has a dark, sad quality to it, which is why it stands out.

On TCM, as interviewed with Robert Osborne, Caron mentioned that the studio felt this film would "ruin her career". It is a lost gem which is well worth viewing, and also good for children who want to "run away to the circus/ join show business. The theme is very well manifested in this film.

Leslie Caron is soulful and sad. Always a wonderful actress to watch, and better in this than some of the bigger budget musicals. Wish she would do more film these days as well. 10/10.
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8/10
A love story between an orphan girl and puppets--it shouldn't work but it does...
moonspinner5510 November 2006
Naive and stubborn orphan Leslie Caron chances upon a traveling carnival and walks into job as an actress at the puppet-stage. But she's as caught up in the fantasy as the kids who gather to watch and sing along, and unbeknownst to her, the puppeteer has a crush on her. Improbably beautiful romance which has no right to work as well as it does, pulling all the requisite sentiment out of the mix (along with the viewer's heartstrings). Leslie Caron is a bit puzzling--she's both scowling and sweet--but when Lili has a dream and metamorphoses into a woman of the world (vying for the attentions of a handsome magician with Zsa Zsa Gabor no less!), it's shocking to see the actress so glamorously grown-up. The tune "Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo" gets a real work-out (it's a pleasant song, if you're attuned to the film's fanciful charms), and Mel Ferrer is possibly too intrinsically dark as a romantic suitor; he's meant to be anti-social, but his long, grim face could use a little mediating. Still, Caron works real magic after the awkward set-up to the story, and the dream sequences, particularly at the climax, are expertly handled. ***1/2 from ****
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9/10
A charming, fairy tale type movie
Bob Pr.5 December 1999
I was directed to pick up "something light" and happily decided on this. I needed something that might please a four year old who loves dance as well as her mother and grandmother who are from France.

The story is set somewhere in France and has a simple fairy tale flavor to it. The movie was released in 1953 when Leslie Caron was about 22 and could look the 16 years old required.

It tells the coming of age of an adolescent orphan girl who gets involved with a carnival, her infatuation with a magician who is a ladies man, and her involvement with a puppeteer (Mel Ferrer).

An interacting subplot involves the puppeteer. As a dancer, he was a rising star before being wounded in WW II. Unable to continue dancing because of the injury, he turned to puppetry in a traveling carnival. As a person, he's somewhat bitter and angry at his loss; through his puppets, he can be empathic and tender. Can or will he also change and mature?

The orphan girl ends up being part of his puppet show, interacting with the characters very much in the way Shari Lewis was to later interact with Lamb Chop, Charlie Horse, and Hush Puppy. (I thought at first the movie borrowed from Shari Lewis's TV show but found it may be the reverse since Shari didn't start her act until after this movie.) Leslie Caron is nicely naive and believable in the role. There are some nice dream/dance scenes which a 4 year old doesn't understand but which those twice her age or older probably would.

I've not seen "Carnival" so I can't be disappointed that this movie lacked its music or plot. "Lili" stands quite well on its own very nicely as a charming fairy tale. There's just a little suggestion of sexual awakening, the coming of age involves more the capacity to see who can invest or commit. Kind of a refreshing change that it could deal with an important issue and not have to bring in a lot of lust or passion.
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10/10
One of the three finest motion pictures ever filmed
Leonard F Wheat4 September 2001
Warning: Spoilers
LILI ranks with 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS as one of the three finest motion pictures ever filmed. Its captivating song, "Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo," ranks with "Over the Rainbow," "When You Wish Upon a Star," "You'll Never Know," and "It's a Grand Night for Singing" as one of the five best original movie songs. Its climactic dream-ballet sequence, in which Lili dances with life-sized versions of four puppets, is rivaled only by the "Out of My Dreams" dream-ballet sequence of OKLAHOMA. And no actress has ever been more adorable and endearing -- or capable -- than Leslie Caron is in this movie.

Beware: spoilers. Not really a musical, Lili is best described as a romantic fable or sophisticated fairy tale. It tells the story of a naive 16-year-old orphan who joins a carnival. There she brings success to a lame puppeteer (Mel Ferrer) by interacting with his four puppets; her ingenuousness leads her to regard the puppets as real persons. Ferrer, though outwardly bitter about the war injury that ruined his career as an acclaimed dancer, shows flashes of inner kindness and humanity: he uses his puppets at one point to infuse joy into a despondent Lili, and he smiles when she isn't looking. Soon he falls in love with Lily. But she can't recognize as Ferrer's the tenderness that is revealed only in the puppets. Repelled by the overt rudeness of "the angry man," Lili becomes infatuated with the carnival's magician, a ladies' man. When she eventually learns the magician is married, Lili's eyes open. But the puppeteer's jealousy still clouds her vision. She decides to leave the carnival. Her departure precipitates the dream sequence. Here, dancing with the four puppets she has grown to love, she slowly realizes that each character represents a facet of the puppeteer's personality. Gola the giant, for example, is frightened by girls, so he tries to frighten them; but he is actually cowardly, clumsy, longing to be loved. Lili's belated recognition that Gola and the others are really Ferrer brings the story to its heartwarming conclusion.

This imaginative movie is more than a classic. It is pure enchantment. Make it your top priority.
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10/10
Hauntingly charming; multi-layered film; Unlike any other film;
aciolino15 February 2017
Warning: Spoilers
I see that several reviewers have used the word, "Haunting," in describing this film, as did I. If you allow yourself, "Lili" will speak to you on many, many levels, several you won't recognize right away, and this makes it haunting. There's always something "else" going on that's just beneath the surface. This makes for very rich and profound entertainment. A fairy tale? Perhaps, that too. Consider the topics touched on: alcoholism, rape, infidelity, suicide... this is serious entertainment, couched in sweetness and light.

Visually, Lili is a fascinating film to watch. The color, although vivid, is not the overwhelming and oppressive color of an MGM 40's musical which only interferes with the talent. Here the viewer feels as if they are reading an old children's book filled with lovely illustrations.

There is multi-layered meaning one would not expect in such a "light" story. But it is intelligent, has depth and is profound, not the least reason is the presence and use of puppets. SPOILERS ALERT! This is done beautifully, as they represent, not only the puppeteers' inner life but the mystical quality of the puppets themselves. The dance between Caron and the puppets "come to life" near the end is magical and moving for precisely these reasons.

All the actors are perfectly cast.

Do not hesitate to let yourself really enjoy this film fully, completely and deeply. Let your imagination fly. It will be worth it and you'll be surprised what you come up with and don't be surprised if you shed a tear when it's over.

And that song!

Bravo!
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9/10
Leslie Caron is Simply Amazing
mike4812820 July 2013
Warning: Spoilers
I had never seen this film before. I just ran across it on TCM. It's a fairy tale of a little musical and only 81 minutes at that. Leslie Caron plays a 16-year-old orphan (she is 22 at the time) that finds herself abandoned and alone in a small French provincial town, so naturally she joins the carnival that just happens to be passing through it. I know this sounds corny, but told in the pretext of a fantasy, it works perfectly. Simple yet effective sets. She has a "crush" on the magician, never suspecting than he is secretly married to his gorgeous assistant, played very well by Zsa Zsa Gabor. She becomes entranced by the puppets and become part of their act, singing "Hi Lili", a wonderful song that won an Oscar. Two fantasy dance sequences including the finale where all the puppets come to life as she runs away. This sequence intentionally will remind you of "We're Off to See the Wizard". The slight amount of "sexual awakening" will be lost on any young girls who watch this as only a fairy tale. Wonderful in its simplicity and simply charming. I can't imagine anyone else playing the role of Lili except Caron. Only available as a basic WB "Archive" DVD-R, which will play on most current players.
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8/10
Mesmerizing and atmospheric ... but might someone be willing to make me a copy?
labeyer24 January 2011
Sadly, I've been confined to watching (and showing my little girls) excerpts of Lili on YouTube ... but it's clear to me that this movie is quite a treasure. The undertone of sadness is subtle, enriching the experience for adults yet not disturbing young children viewers--an impressive directorial balancing act! Moreover, the backstage circus world is a fascinating one for young viewers; this is a large part of why my daughters love Billy Rose's Jumbo (with Doris Day), even though that film has less enchantment than Lili. If any IMDb member might be willing and able to make a copy for me, please email. My family and I will be much obliged.
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10/10
One of the greatest films ever...
Genevieve3 December 2007
Warning: Spoilers
What more can I say? I love this movie. Sure, it's dated, sure it's old, but classics are classics.

(Spoilers) Set in France after World War II, Lili is an orphaned girl who's on the end of her rope. Losing her job as a waitress in a passing carnival, she decides to kill herself. But a crippled and bitter puppeteer named Paul, who hates people, stops her by talking to her through a puppet by the name of Carrot Top. (There are also three other puppets: Reynardo, a sly fox who steals; Margeruite, a vain dancer; and Golo, a cowardly giant.) Paul falls in love with Lili, and Lili falls in love with the puppets, unaware that Paul's the one behind them. They convince her to stay with them and sing with them, and she agrees. The act sells out shows and everyone loves the girl's charm.

Lili is in love with a handsome magician named Marcus, whom Paul greatly detests. But the poor girl doesn't find out until later that the magician is a married man who's cheating on his wife. Trying to go and talk to Marcus, Paul grabs her, thinking she's going back to the magician for love. Furious with her struggle, the cripple strikes Lili on the face. Realizing what he did, he limps away where as Lili goes to leave.

But as she leaves, Carrot Top tries to convince her to stay or take him with her, because he adores her. Lili starts to feel guilty and is unsure of what to do. Golo tells her that if the "boss" is so mean to her, that he'll protect her from him. Lili tells him that she knows he would, because he's so kind and always knows how she feels. Paul begins to feel sad for hurting Lili and makes Golo shout out, "I'll kill him. I'm gonna kill the boss!" However, after regaining composure, he says, "Well, I'll give him a good talking to at least." Then, Reynardo comes out, carrying a fox fur. Lili thinks he broke his promise not to steal and swiped it when no one was looking. But the fox says he made a deal. If he wasn't able to keep up with the payments, he was going to give the man something in exchange; another fox fur, himself. Lili cries and holds them, saying she won't leave. Suddenly, she feels the puppets trembling and realizes it's Paul.

Due to his shyness, Paul can't express how much he loves Lili and gets angry. Lili wonders why he hides behind his puppets. But Paul tells her that he is the puppets: the confident, clever Carrot Top; the cowardly and clumsy giant Golo, who longs to be loved; the vain and jealous Margeruite; and the compromising and lying Reynardo. Angrily, Lili leaves, and Paul looks full of regret. But as the girl is walking she realizes that each puppet was a part of him. And after the most adorable dream sequence EVER (in which she dances with Paul), she turns back, and runs into his arms. He then, gives her lots of kisses, and holds her. And then, the puppets, pleased that the two are now in love, clap with excitement as they watch the two lovebirds.

10/10 for the love and sweetness. Buy it today!
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