Review: ‘David and Lisa’

Tact, taste, insight and forthrightness make this one of the most incisive and original films treating mental problems.

Tact, taste, insight and forthrightness make this one of the most incisive and original films treating mental problems.

A young man is brought to a mental home by his doting mother. He seems intelligent, haughty and sophisticated. But he cannot bear to be touched by anybody.

He is worshipped by a younger boy and becomes interested in the case of a schizophrenic girl called Lisa who talks backwards in rhyme and takes herself for two girls. He manages to get to her and both are aware of each other’s weak spots.

Film appears clinically observant and authentic and is refreshingly free of jargon and pseudo-psycho dramatics. It does have a tendency to be too spare and make each scene a point about psychotic behaviour or reactions to it by outsiders.

But there is no forced love affair or cliche suspense aspects. Keir Dullea has the knifelike, frigid presence that is right in his case of bottled up feelings that have made him fear death and any human emotion. And Janet Margolin has the touching disorder and mute need for help required for the part of the girl.

For a first film Frank Perry shows a concise feel for making the telling points in each scene. A tight ordered script by Eleanor Perry also helps. It was taken from a book by a practicing psychiatrist [Theodore Isaac Rubin].

1963: Nominations: Best Director, Adapted Screenplay

David and Lisa

Production

Continental. Director Frank Perry; Producer Paul M. Heller; Screenplay Eleanor Perry; Camera Leonard Hirschfield; Editor Irving Oshman; Music Mark Lawrence; Art Director Paul M. Heller

Crew

(B&W) Available on VHS, DVD. Extract of a review from 1963. Running time: 85 MIN.

With

Keir Dullea Janet Margolin Howard da Silva Neva Patterson Clifton James

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