"I hadn't seen this film in decades, and I wondered how well it would hold up now. I needn't have worried: it's still as lovely & touching as I remembered, with the same quiet power that moved me as a teenager. The performances are wonderful, with Keir Dullea's David struggling unsuccessfully to conceal his terror beneath a calm, self-assured, even arrogant facade; and Janet Margolin's glowing Lisa, her big dark eyes conveying fragility, yearning, loneliness & a glimmer of hope with astonishing depth. And the stark black & white photography allows us to glimpse their souls in a way color never could.
As for complaints that the story "blames the parents," please note that Dr. Swinford (a warm & compassionate Howard DaSilva) explains to David that one day he'll understand that his parents also had parents, with their own fears, doubts & unconscious drives. The film doesn't "blame the parents," it merely points out that each person bears the psychological weight & demands of many generations, often unconsciously. This remains as true today as it was then. Psychological healing isn't about "blame," but about recognizing the source of our inner wounds & coming to terms with them within ourselves. Whatever the cause of those wounds, once we're aware of them, the responsibility of facing them is ours alone.
And has psychology learned much more in the 40 years since this film was made? Of course! But that doesn't invalidate the film, both as an expression of a specific time & place, and as a metaphor for healing. No, it's not saying that love & compassion will magically overcome & solve all problems; but it is saying that they're absolutely essential for any hopes of creating a whole & meaningful life. The understanding & tentative union that David & Lisa find together is a beginning, not an end. Who knows what the future will bring? All they (and we) have is this moment, now, reaching out to one another in an often dark & frightening world. And that's a message which is never dated. Most highly recommended!"
Jennifer E. Williams | Fort Worth, TX | 06/11/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film is absolutely beautiful in every sense. It is the story of two teenagers, David and Lisa, who are both in a home for mentally ill teens. David is obsessed with clocks and has a fear of being physically touched while Lisa can only speak in rhyme. The film covers the powerful bond that develops between David and Lisa. I think this film is wonderful. Both Keir Dullea (David) and the late Janet Margolin (Lisa) are brilliant! There is also a fine supporting cast. Overall I would say this is one of the finest films I have ever viewed."
A Great Film, Years Ahead Of Its Time
firstname.lastname@example.org | Berkeley, California | 06/21/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"A few nights ago, I watched the "Oprah Winfrey Presents" made-for-TV remake of David and Lisa on ABC. What a disaster.David and Lisa has always been one of my favorite movies. I saw it originally in 1962 when I was a sophomore in high school. (I will never forget . . . The dramatic tension was too much for Billy Levin, the friend I went to see it with . . . just as they touched at the grand finale of the movie, he burst into uncontrolled uproarious laughter. I thought the other people in the theater were going to kill him).Anyway . . .If Oprah Winfrey wanted "to introduce David and Lisa to a new generation of viewers" (as was stated in the prologue), why didn't she just show us all the original one (without commercials)! And who needed Oprah telling us all at the outset, "This movie is about the healing power of love." Hey, if the director couldn't get that across in two hours!Keir Dullea, Janet Margolin, and Howard da Silva's performances were impeccable in the original. Sidney Poitier's performance (he played the doctor in last night's redo) ran the gamut of emotions from A to B. (I have always been an admirer of Howard da Silva's progressive credentials -- he was a leftist blacklisted by the McCarthyites in the 1950's -- his genuine caring and sincere humanity really came across on the silver screen.)And maybe sweat just looks better in black and white, or maybe Dullea's raw gutsy portrayal was eons better than the polished frozen robot performance of Lukas Haas, but all in all there is no comparison. Last night's Lisa did a whole lot too much long-shot bunny-hopping around the set. The original director had the good sense to zero in on close-up after close-up of Janet Margolin's beautifully bedraggled fragility.And what's with the added dialogue of the doctor saying to the mom, "We stopped blaming parents 20 years go." Sez who? I'm all for blaming the parents. The original movie really blasted away at the uptight parents for screwing up their kid. Right on. (I think Oprah might have added that line herself -- she probably spends a lot of time on daytime teevee telling parents not to blame themselves).The new version had a lot of stuff about medication being balanced and how important meds were to certain of the patients progress -- none of that in the original.They cut out one of the greatest scenes of the whole movie . . . the one at the train station where an uptight citizen lashes out at the kids, calling them "a bunch of screwballs spoiling the town." A really really important scene in terms of showing the discrimination faced by people with psychiatric disabilities, and the horrible pain it causes.The new version also cut out the sensitively-drawn portrayal of a gay male character (David's chess partner), an overweight therapist, as well as a very strong hispanic character, turning him into just another disturbed anglo. Leaving us with whitebread. (Guess they didn't want to take any chances with the network that axed Ellen.)When the mother is come on to by that particular character, David's "delusions of grandeur" speech (about the character's sexuality) is replaced by some ridiculous savage sexual assault going on on top of one of picnic tables in the background. That sure helps make viewers feel sympathetic to adolescents with psychiatric disabilities.The new version had the female therapist crying in distress when Lisa ran away near the end of the movie. Give me a break! Kids are always running away from residential facilities.There was something so real about the original version, and something so "Hollywood" about the new one -- no dramatic tension, no nothing.The music in the original really added to the drama; not so the new version.The original film was really a very beautiful fairytale about how messed up people can help each other out of their respective pits. Unfortunately, mythic metaphor though it be, it has never been true in my experience. Anytime I've met someone as screwed up as myself and thought Hey, this is it, we can just love each other and David and Lisa each other into better human beings and happier lives, it's never quite worked out that way, to say the least.At least the original gave me the feeling that I could still dream. I still do love that myth.The original 1962 version is fresh in my mind because I had just rented the video about a month ago. At the time, I couldn't help thinking that it was 35 years ahead of it's time. Maybe we should make that 45 . . ."
Maybe the first successful indie film
Paul Ambrose | Durango, Colorado | 01/08/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"As to the content and quality of this film, the other reviews here cover it really well. The thing I like about this film is that it was done well on an incredibly low budget. What I heard at the time is that the film was made for $50,000. An absurdly low figure, even in 1962. The crew had only one old Mitchell 35mm camera, so for every change of view, they literally had to pick up the camera and move it. This accounts also for the fade out to black at the end of each scene. The film is so artfully assembled that when you watch it, you are totally unaware of the limitations the crew had to deal with. I believe David and Lisa should be mandatory study for all the wannabe indie directors hitting the scene today."
Startling and Brilliant
Isavant@starpower.com | Takoma Park, MD USA | 09/19/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I just saw "David and Lisa" and am buying the video for keeps. Never having heard of it I rented this film on an impulse. It was a most rewarding impulse. The brilliance of this film caught me completely off guard. This film now sits on my list of favorite films. The cinematography during certain scenes has a breathtaking ability to communicate the story through the lens alone. The screenplay is brilliant in every way conceivable. If you are a mental health professional you must see this film. David and Lisa is directed with restraint and brevity. Scenes end precisely when their message is communicated,and no longer. The acting is a gift to the viewer. The art design for the movie is poetic and powerful. This is one of the most seductive movies I have ever seen. This film moves the viewer along effortlessly. Am I raving about this film? Yes! I concur with the previous reviews that say that this film was ahead of its time. It is still relevant today, unlike many "issue" movies that become cliches and are painful to watch."