We’re kicking off our new Romance Recommendations series with one of old Hollywood’s most underrated romances: LILI (1953).
After the death of her father, Lili (Leslie Caron) moves to a new town in search of work and comes across a local circus troupe. Marc the Magician (Jean Pierre Aumont–so handsome) takes her under his wing and gets her a job as a waitress, despite the cynical warnings of Paul the Puppeteer (Mel Ferrer–also so handsome), who doesn’t like Lili at all.
Unfortunately, Lili makes a terrible waitress and gets fired on her first night. She contemplates suicide and begins to climb the ladder to the tightrope when a voice suddenly calls out to her. It’s Carrot Top, one of the puppets, and he talks her back down.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Puppets? No thank you. But wait! These aren’t the puppets from Dead Silence or Annabelle. These puppets manage to be charming, not sinister, because you know behind their words and kindnesses is a real person–Paul.
The puppets strike up a friendship with Lili that’s sweet, genuine, and complex, but somehow it doesn’t translate to her relationship with Paul, who she hates more than ever. Meanwhile, behind the curtain Paul falls in love with Lili more and more every day.
LILI (1953) is quirky and unsettling and intensely romantic film. It walks a fine line between innocence and darkness, magic and maturity. I highly recommend checking it out!