“A song of love is a sad song.”
A sweet, simple orphan named Lili (Leslie Caron) falls in love with a womanizing magician (Jean-Pierre Aumont), and joins his carnival troupe to be near him. Meanwhile, a disabled dancer-turned-puppeteer (Mel Ferrer) is enamored with Lili, but afraid to show her his true feelings, and speaks to her through his puppets instead.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Carnivals and Circuses
- Coming of Age
- Leslie Caron Films
- Love Triangle
- Mel Ferrer Films
- Puppets and Ventriloquism
Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, Leslie Caron is “truly captivating” in this “charming one-song musical” which was nominated for six Academy Awards. Indeed, as many reviewers have pointed out, Lili would not work without Caron’s magical performance; she literally lights up the screen, and we immediately care about her. But while Peary argues that the “sentimental story is skimpy and dated”, I disagree: I see Lili as a fable-like romance, in which two misfits eventually come to terms with both their naive dreams (Caron follows Marc around like an eager puppy, not recognizing him for who he really is) and their lost hopes (Ferrer is bitter about his dashed career as a dancer).
I also disagree with Peary that Caron is surrounded by “supporting players [who] aren’t particularly exciting”. Aumont is perfectly cast (and drolly amusing) as a womanizer who lusts after Lili, but recognizes that she’s still a child — I especially love the line when he tells her, “Lili, you mustn’t throw yourself at a man! It isn’t nice! Well, it’s nice, but you shouldn’t do it!” And Ferrer is appropriately moody as the brusque puppeteer; one of my favorite shots in the film shows his face behind the puppet booth after he’s first interacted with Lili — we can literally see his hard shell melting. Lili may be a simple story, but it’s finely told, and guaranteed to tug at your heartstrings if you let it. At the very least, you’ll be humming “Hi Lili, Hi Lo” for days afterwards.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Leslie Caron as Lili
- Jean-Pierre Aumont as Marc
- Lili failing miserably in her first attempt at waitressing
- Lili interacting with the puppets
- Lili’s dream dance, in which she competes with Zsa-Zsa Gabor for Aumont’s attentions
- The touching final dance sequence
- A clever, magical screenplay
Yes. This Oscar-nominated musical is worth seeing for Caron’s performance alone.
- Noteworthy Performance(s)
- Oscar Winner or Nominee