Wednesday, February 22, 2012

LILI, 1953 dir., Charles Walters

Also known as: The best time that Mel Ferrer played a brooding, drunken ex-dancer/soldier-turned-puppeteer-with-a-self-pity-problem-to-rival-Sydney-Carton

You may think I am making this up; but I'm not. A trailer to prove it:

Guys, have you seen Lili?  Oh well, you have to.  It’s a 1953 Leslie Caron vehicle (before Gigi) and works toward securing her as the best waif-elvin-french-girl-to-star-as-titular-heroines-with-cute-two-syllable-diminuitives.
Lili’s dad is dead and so she wanders the provincial French streets hoping to find a job.  But, she doesn’t.  The baker she was going to work for (an old friend of her father’s) is dead. She heads next door to see if she can help a tailor; but he is a douche... Such a douche that she is happy to be interrupted by a hot Carnival performer who is obviously the world’s slimiest guy. But, he has curly hair and an accent. Le voila!

And there be DANCING

So, she follows him around and meets up with his other two circus friends: one is pudgy, the other is Mel Ferrer(who is tortured and brooding and angry).
Lili tries her hand at waitressing for the carnival;  but keeps getting distracted by the hot slimy carnival magician.  Even though he’s a douche and obviously in a steamy relationship with Zsa Zsa Gabor.  So, she does what any self-respecting French teenager stuck at the Carnival with No Money would do: she decides to commit suicide. She starts climbing up, up, up, up this tall pole-thing when a voice beckons her calling her name and calling her back.

The voice comes from a puppet.  It’s Carrot Top, a rascally little red-head of the era of Howdy Doody. It’s a scary little thing.  Then all the other puppets at the puppet stand burst through the curtain and talk to her: Reynardo the Fox, Golo the goofy giant, Marguerite the vain and pretty woman.
Lili is enchanted and interacts with the puppets genuinely.  She doesn’t seem to recognize that they are actually controlled by Mel Ferrer’s Paul the Puppeteer. Soon, they inadvertently draw a crowd and Lili sings a cute song with the puppets and the whole world is beguiled.  I mean, come on! Leslie Caron dancing with a puppet!

So, you see, I am actually ALL THE PUPPETS!

So, we learn that Mel Ferrer’s puppeteer--- all war-ravaged and injured and broken from being reduced to puppetry after having been a promising dancer--- is all googly-eyed for Lili. Big time. Sydney Carton. But, he drinks too much wine and his way too gruff and doesn’t know how to explain that I HATE WHEN YOU TALK TO THAT DOUCHEBAG MAGICIAN---- not because I hate you; but because I WORRY for your VIRTUE, you pristine little pure-as-a-bell wait elf!

Lili is hired to perform with the puppets every night.  It is LE CHARMING!  She doesn’t ever seem to recognize that they are puppets and, as it is the one time that Mel Ferrer can be gentle with her, he asks her her private thoughts and uses the puppets to woo her in the way he wishes he could in “real” life.  As soon as you can say Cyrano  de Bergerac, Mel Ferrer is following Lili around with eyes so enraptured with love and devotion that your heart will break.

And yet, fair readers, he is of the TORTURED, BROODING sort.  But, heck! He can do a voice….

So the puppet thing goes on and these big wigs offer Mel Ferrer a puppet job away from the Carnival because he is so good and the Douchebag Magician is leaving the Carnival and Lili learns that Zsa Zsa is actuellement his wife! Zut alors!

So Mel Ferrer sees Lili talking to DBM and misinterprets it as VIRTUE HAVING BEEN COMPROMISED so SLAPS HER (!!!?????!) and she decides to leave the carnival and the puppet team.  But, before she does: Carrot Top and Marguerite and all of her puppet friends beseech her to stay. She has a tearful farewell with them and just as she hugs them, she notices that they are trembling: well, the hands holding them and propelling them are trembling and then LILI finally realizes that MEL FERRER is the guy she has been talking to all along. … telling her deepest secrets and desires through the PUPPETS actually controlled by him! And she is conflicted and he is all, like, I AM THE PUPPETS: I, like every man, embody their perplexing personalities and characteristics and the viewer is all, like: DUDE! That’s some sort of metaphor!

But, Lili still leaves the Carnival…. And she walks down a warm, musty grey road ONLY to dream a puppet dance sequence (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)   Every time she dances with one of the puppets (now life-sized) they imaginatively fade into their creator…. And Lili is like DUDE! MEL FERRER is ACTUALLY HOT and he ACTUALLY LOVES ME!

So…. She runs back to the carnival and THEY MAKE OUT and have one of those awkward 1950s-era neck-tilt kisses and the PUPPETS clap from the puppet stand ( although who is making the puppets move is beyond me because Mel “puppetmaster” Ferrer is getting busy with Lili….


But, ANYWAYS… it is the best movie ever. Also, Mel Ferrer was something else because, for a time, he was AUDREY HEPBURN'S HUSBAND! Also, Mel is short for Melchor. True Story.


Unknown said...

So basically I agree with everything you're saying here. Lili is frakkin' awesome!

Anonymous said...

In this movie I love so much Mel Ferrer!!! He is so... so... so sexy and tortured! He needs ME!! (jejeje).
Leslie Caron... well, she is nice...
The look from his eyes is so full of pain... He touches my heart!
And your comparation with Sidney Caron is so exactly! I love Carton, for him I cried and cried when I was a little girl...
Thank you so much for your post!
(sorry for my English, but I speak Spanish).