1953 | Drama | 81 minutes | English


A naive, young, French girl arrives in a provincial town hoping to find an old friend of her father. She is told he died. She tries, unsuccessfully, to find work. She meets Marc, a slick, womanizing carnival magician, who beguiles her with a few magic tricks. She is infatuated with him. He helps her land a job as a waitress at the carnival, but, alas, that doesn’t work out. Desperate, penniless, with no prospects, she considers suicide. Paul, the carnival’s puppeteer, notices what Lili is about to do. He starts talking to Lili through his many endearing puppets. This draws a crowd and the audience is enchanted. Paul offers Lili a job to do just what she did, talk to the puppets. It becomes a successful part of Paul’s act. Paul, falls in love with Lili but he  can only express his feelings through his puppets. Paul was badly injured during the last war and he walks with a pronounced limp. He is a bitter man. Without using the puppets to converse, he treats Lili badly. Meanwhile, Marc receives an offer to perform in a local casino and Lili hopes he will  hire her as his assistant. But Lili finds out that Marc is married to his current assistant Rosalie. Lili is heartbroken. She decides to leave the carnival.  Paul sees her leaving and he again uses his puppets to try and talk her out of it. When Lili feels the puppets shaking, she realizes it’s Paul’s hands that are shaking. But Paul, fearful of rejection, discourages Lili. She leaves and she imagines  the puppets have followed her. As Lili dances with each puppet, she finally grasps reality. She is in love with Paul. She races back to the carnival hoping  her love will be reciprocated.

Leslie Caron (Lili) / Mel Ferrer (Paul) / Jean-Pierre Aumont (Marc) / Zsa Zsa Gabor (Rosalie)
Why Stream This Film?
Who would have thought that a naive and frightened waif, considering suicide, would be saved by a group of endearing puppets?  It happens in Lili and it will tug your heart strings. Guaranteed.
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus):100%
  • Academy Awards: Winner, Best Director (Charles Walters); Best Actress in a Leading Role (Leslie Caron)
  • Golden Globes: Winner, Best Screenplay (Helen Deutsch)
  • BAFTA Awards: Winner, Best  Actress (Leslie Caron)
  • National Board of Review: Listed, Top Ten Films of the Year
  • The film received a perfect 100% rating from Rotten Tomatoes
Coming from a studio (MGM) more renowned for expensive spectacles than for slender semi-fantasies, this is an astonishingly fragile and lovely film.
Clyde Gilmour

Maclean's Movies

Four Stars. An enchanting musical.
Leonard Maltin's


At last, the simplicity and freshness of little French actress, Leslie Caron, has again been captured in a film. This time it is in LILI that the elfin and winsome dancing star with the odd little face and the mobile figure once more demonstrates her youthful charm. And the result is that she helps LILI to be a lovely and beguiling film, touched with the magic of romance and the shimmer of masquerade”–Bosley Crowther
Bosley Crowther

The New York Times

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