David and Lisa
Action / Drama
David and Lisa
Action / Drama
The emotional story of a young man in a mental institution for teens who begins to understand his psychosis in the environment of others with mental and emotional problems. He finds intimacy with Lisa, a young woman suffering from dissociative identity disorder.
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March 24, 2015 at 11:37 PM
For the rich and disturbed
At a time when films were becoming bigger and more expensive to fill theater seats in competition with the small screen, David And Lisa quietly premiered in the fall of 1963. A small black and white film with a dental floss budget it's about two young people in a mental health facility that only the rich can afford.
As such it's not a film that is truly representative of the mentally ill. Something like One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest is far better in that regard showing how people of all types and all types of neuroses are warehoused like cattle. This is a facility that only people of means can afford.
Keir Dullea and Janet Margolin who got their first big breaks in the title roles as a pair of kids at a combination of boarding school and mental health facility. Dullea is a boy with an all consuming passion for neatness and order who goes ballistic at being touched. Margolin is a loopy girl clearly schizophrenic who constantly speaks in rhymes. I think in her mind that's bringing a kind of closed order to her world.
We never see Margolin's family, but Dullea's is an eyeful. His father is distant and ineffectual. But mom Neva Patterson is the ice queen of suburban Republican women. David's here clearly because he's an embarrassment in her world.
The therapists are strangely passive. Clifton James and Howard DaSilva seem to be good listeners, but really don't offer much. James who played southern redneck types usually is almost unrecognizable. As for DaSilva he was coming off the blacklist and no doubt grateful for any work.
The film got two Oscar nominations for director Frank Perry and for Best Adapted Screenplay. But it belongs strictly to the leads Keir Dullea and Janet Margolin as David And Lisa.
It isn't clinical and it isn't maudlin, though it is a peculiarly passive film experience
Keir Dullea plays David, a new resident at a psychiatric treatment center, who becomes agitated when he is touched; Janet Margolin is Lisa, a schizophrenic who alternately speaks in rhymes or not at all. Director Frank Perry's drama about mental illness and the loving friendship that develops between these two disturbed young people was a surprise hit in 1962; independently-produced and distributed, the profits allowed Perry and his screenwriter wife, Eleanor Perry, to continue making acclaimed films together until the start of the new decade. It's not a very courageous film, it isn't hard-hitting and it doesn't break new ground, but as a dramatic acting showcase it delivers. Dullea is wonderful; he and Perry do not let the hysterics inherent in the role of David to dominate Dullea's performance (he carries the movie). As David's psychiatrist, Howard Da Silva is also strong, turning what might otherwise be a thankless role--the proverbial doctor-friend--into something much more: he's wise and caring, but isn't showy about it. The film is an entertainment the way TV dramas on "Playhouse 90" were entertainments. It shows us sick behavior and makes its points about society's attitude to that behavior, but there's no current of life underneath the film. "David and Lisa" isn't grossly melodramatic, which is a plus, yet Perry is too controlled within this environment. The picture is in black-and-white, and yet you can sense a rosy hue around it. ** from ****
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David and Lisa (1962)
General Notes: David and Lisa is a very solid film. I have a soft spot for films that portray people that are different, outsiders and/or are mentally ill. The film explores the topic of mental illness in a way that does not seem exploitative. Keir Dullea, best known for playing David Bowman in 2001: A Space Odyssey, stars as David Clemens. At the start of the film, David is taken to a residential treatment center/school by his overprotective mother. David is a highly intelligent young man who has an intense fear of being touched. He is cold, distant, and concentrates on his studies, avoiding most of the other students. He has a recurring dream in which he murders people by means of a giant clock.
Janet Margolin plays Lisa Brandt, a young girl with two distinct personalities. "Lisa" can only speak in rhymes, while "Muriel' cannot speak and communicates by writing. During the course of the movie, David befriends Lisa, and the two help each other with their disorders.
Positives: Keir Dullea is excellent in his portrayal of David. He shows an air of superiority, and yet is very insecure. He cries when no one is looking. Dullea does a great job in showing the two sides of David's personality. Janet Margolin also does a good job at showing her two personalities. Her transformation from "Lisa" and "Muriel" is fantastic. I looked up the actress' other film credits and there is not much there. A pity. I thought she showed a lot of promise as a young actress. The other strong performance was Howard da Silva as the headmaster/psychiatrist Dr. Alan Swinford. David's intelligence makes it a bit difficult to treat his illness; he can be very condescending and prone to angry tantrums. Dr. Swinford takes the verbal abuse and does not let it affect the compassion that he has for his student/patient. Da Silva does an amazing job of non-verbal acting in this movie. You can see that David's words hurt, but he does not take them to heart.
Negatives: The runaway scene at toward the end of the film does not seem to fit the rest of the movie. I think the tone was off and the photography was shaky, which was unlike the rest of the film. Other than that, there is not much to dislike about this movie.
Overall: Check out this highly-overlooked film. I give a very strong recommendation and rate it an 9.