David and Lisa (1962)

Genres - Drama, Romance  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Drama  |   Release Date - Dec 26, 1962 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 95 min.  |   Countries - United States  |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Karl Williams

Based on a case history by Dr. Theodore Isaac Rubin, David and Lisa was a low-budget winner, scoring big with audiences in a genre (psychodrama) that rarely produces successful results. It quickly took in over five times its $200,000 budget, breaking financial ground that would later be traveled by many other independent films. The frank, documentary-like approach of director Frank Perry, a student of acting and directing teacher Lee Strasberg, won him an Oscar nomination as Best Director, and another Academy Award nomination went to the script by Eleanor Perry, the director's wife. Her accomplished adaptation of Rubin's book reduced technical jargon and psychobabble to a minimum, keeping a non-manipulative focus on the two main characters. David and Lisa became dated in later years only in its depiction of the main characters' psychological problems. The notion that a mental illness like David's could be caused by overbearing mothering was widely discredited after (if not before) the movie's release. Similarly, schizophrenia came to be defined as a more general mental disease than Lisa's rare multiple personality disorder. The film's spare, stripped-down look, combined with its unflinching examination of people normally relegated to life's margins, made it a leading example of the influence of European New Wave filmmaking on mainstream American cinema of the 1960s. Perhaps demonstrating this European sensibility, the film won the British Academy Award for Best Film, and Perry won Best New Director at the Venice Film Festival. Rubin penned a 1986 sequel, Lisa and David Today, which followed up on his patients' progress; and Oprah Winfrey produced a modernized TV remake in 1998.