Lili (1953)

Genres - Drama, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Romantic Drama  |   Run Time - 81 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Craig Butler

Those who view Lili expecting a full-scale musical should be forewarned: There's only one song (presented as a "performance" number, rather than one in which the characters sing their thoughts and emotions), and while there are two enjoyable ballets, they're actually somewhat perfunctory and seem to have been added primarily to take advantage of star Leslie Caron's talent in that area. Whether musical or not, Lili is a charming and enchanting little fable of a film, with a surprisingly somber undercurrent. The Love of Seven Dolls, the Paul Gallico story that inspired the film, is considerably darker. Caron shines as the title character, exuding a very believable freshness and innocence; more importantly, her purity and naïveté are so convincing that the crucial but problematic climax -- in which Lili realizes Paul has been supplying the words and emotions for her beloved puppets all along -- is perfectly acceptable. (And Caron dances beautifully, of course.) Mel Ferrer is quite good with creating the characters for the puppets; he is less effective with the character of Paul, which comes off not so much tortured and tragic as sullen and petulant. Charles Walters has directed with his customary efficiency, and there are some lovely visuals. Although the second ballet could have used a slightly more interesting design, overall the production values are top-notch. Several years later, this same story would be adapted into a full-scale Broadway musical, Carnival.