Leslie Caron is radiant as Lili, the shy young orphan who learns the truth about love with the help of a crippled puppeteer. Sweet and elfin singing the lyrical hit "Hi-Lili, Hi-LO," naïve and earnest talking with the puppets, aglow with grace in the ballet dream sequence, Miss Caron makes Lili one of the most enhancing musical fables ever seen on screen. Based on a Paul Gallico story, the film unfolds in the bright atmosphere of a traveling French carnival. Here Lili becomes a waitress, but she is fired after one night-for spending too much time watching Jean Pierre Aumont, the handsome magician with whom she is infatuated. Lili is grief-stricken until a lame puppeteer (Mel Ferrer) uses his little friends to woo her from her sorrow. Soon she is part of his act, childishly happy with the four puppets, but unable to deal with her moody master, whom she calls "the angry man." How Lili blossoms from adolescence to womanhood with the puppets as her guides makes for a beguiling, bittersweet movie every member of the family will adore!
I don't remember the first time I saw this movie, or how old I was when I did see it, but I do remember feeling like a little kid watching some amazing t.v. show when I first saw "Lili". I adored Leslie Caron's French accent, and her interaction with the puppets is so genuinely sweet and touching. I believe she was in her early 20's when she played the role of Lili, a truly innocent and lonely young woman searching for somewhere to belong after the death of her father.
Paul, the puppeteer, is immediately drawn to the fresh and sweet Lili, but because of his disability, he is rude and impatient with her. Lili, not understanding anything about men, instantly hates Paul and instead believes herself to be in love with a showy and charismatic magician. Yet her distraction with Jean Pierre gets her fired from the only job she can get, and it is when she is at the end of her rope that Paul finds a way to save her, and be close to her at the same time.
Lili is enchanting as a young woman who wears her heart on her sleeve, but displays a stubborn streak as well. She learns some hard lessons about life, and discovers that a handsome man who has a way with pretty words isn't always sincere while hidden underneath the harsh words of the "angry man" lies the tender and giving heart of a man who truly cares for her just as she is. It's a sweet story, fun to watch, whimsical, maybe a little silly for this day and age, but I love to watch it every once in awhile and imagine a world as simple and sweet as the one in which Lili resides.
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