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The Wild Child/ L’enfant Sauvage

The Wild Child (Film Desk)

As with so many of Truffaut's other films, The Wild Child deals sympathetically with adolescence. But the typical trials and tribulations of youth are amplified and altered here by the fact that the young lad of the title was a "wild boy" found abandoned in the woods. Truffaut plays Dr. Jean Itard, the young doctor who assumes the task of taming Victor (Jean-Pierre Cargol). Itard and Victor operate on a similar dynamic as Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller. Both Itard and Sullivan are moved by compassion for their wild charges and are willing to devote endless hours to teaching and socializing them yet neither one was afraid to administer strict discipline as well. Itard was also concerned with instilling a sense of morality into this wild child and that provides a fascinating aspect of the film.

Jean-Pierre Cargol as The Wild Child (Film Desk)

Shot in wonderful black and white by Nestor Almendros, The Wild Child sometimes plays out like a silent film. There are long stretches without any dialogue and yet Truffaut conveys so much information through just his images. The early scenes of the feral boy running naked in the woods and burrowing into a hole to elude some hunters are striking. You begin to wonder how the off screen relationship between Truffaut and his novice actor Jean-Pierre Cargol played out and if it reflected in any way the relationship of their on screen counterparts. Cargol is amazing, especially for someone so young and untrained. You can imagine the patience and care Truffaut's Itard extends to Victor is similar to the way Truffaut the director worked with his young actor.

The Wild Child (in French with English subtitles) is by far the best thing opening this weekend. So treat yourself to an eloquent piece of cinema.

Companion viewing: The Miracle Worker, Nell, The 400 Blows

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