Monday, September 23, 2013

Hi Lili

I adore Leslie Caron. (Like I said, Gigi is my favorite musical.)

Technically, it has all the things I hate; a man who mistreats the very object of his love, a young girl infatuated with a no-goodnik. Maybe it is because Mel Ferrer is so very dashing (just because I don't need looks doesn't mean I'm not aware of them), and Leslie Caron is Leslie Caron, so I find Lili enchanting.
A teenage orphan finds herself a member of a carnival puppet troupe, her job to converse with the puppets. Despite the fact that she knows they are not real, she chats innocently and honestly with them, forgetting they are all actually her grim employer. 

The original name for Paul Gallico's short story, from which the film is based, was The Man Who Hated People, which was later extended to a novella called The Love of the Seven Dolls. While Gallico is a great author, able to infuse humor even in the most miserable of situations, I found the tale disturbing as the Lili character is abused most heinously by the puppeteer. Brrrr.

In the movie version, a war wound robbed the puppeteer of his dancing career, leaving him bitter and reticent. The only way he can express himself is through his puppets; the only kindness he shows Lili is when he shields himself with the different voices and personalities of his alter-egos. In truth, he has actually been there for her, but she doesn't realize it, gazing after a womanizing magician instead.
The moment I like best is when Lili's dreamy gaze focuses into that of steel. She grows up, and she understands, and she will demand instead of passively accept. She is no frail lily needing a man's protection; she becomes independent in her own right. 

It is categorized as a musical although there is only one song and two dance sequences (the film was later the basis for Broadway's Carnival! which starred Jerry Orbach, which then had a full musical score). The song from the film, "Hi Lili Hi Lo," is stuck quite irritatingly in my head. 
After seeing Lili I wondered about the whole idea of "love at first sight." Not being romantic I don't believe in it, but perhaps it was more common once, when men and women lived such separate and uncomplicated lives (I need to work these things out if a movie will get my endorsement).

"I loved you the moment I saw you." Possible? Eh.


FrumGeek said...

Infatuation at first sight. Certainly not love.

Princess Lea said...

With you there.