L' Enfant Sauvage (The Wild Child) (1970)
Based on a real-life case study, recorded in Jean-Marc Gaspard Itard's 1806 volume Memoire et Rapport sur Victor de L'Aveyron, The Wild Child is spiritually in line with François Truffaut's other films about the pains of adolescence. Truffaut himself plays Dr. Jean Itard, a doctor working at Paris' Institute for the Deaf and Dumb. Itard takes on the challenge of Victor (Jean-Pierre Cargol), a nonverbal "wild boy" found abandoned in the woods. Realizing that the Institute's rather cruel methods may drive Victor further into himself, Dr. Itard brings the boy to his own home, hoping to establish a communication base with kindness and compassion. Once he has taught Victor how to listen and respond, Itard takes it upon himself to imbue the boy with a sense of morality. Adopting an austere cinematic technique (at times reminiscent of silent films), Truffaut unfolds his story with directness and simplicity. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi … More
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Critic Reviews for L' Enfant Sauvage (The Wild Child)
The Wild Child is fascinating not only for its Tarzan-like true-life story, but also for what it says about the process of nurturing and educating children, and the tools we use -- language, discipline, affection -- to do so.
Nearly four decades after its release, The Wild Child remains startling for its humane clarity, for Nestor Almendros's brilliant black-and-white photography, and for the sense that Truffaut is achieving filmmaking mastery on a very small scale.
Nearly 40 years after its initial release, Francois Truffaut's The Wild Child (L'Enfant Sauvage) still manages to cast its haunting, poetic spell.
Truffaut never upstages the astounding Cargol; both performers underplay in perfect harmony, turning the story into a duet of paternal affection and paradise lost.
Rather than present a clichéd fall from grace, Truffaut elicits ambivalence by closely tracking the Enlightened scientist's optimism; after the fascination, our inchoate sadness seeps in.
Makes a heartfelt entry in Truffaut's filmography, yet another story of an unwanted kid.
Francois Truffaut was not only a founder of the French New Wave, he was a passionate and keen chronicler of young people, how they grew and evolved and sought purpose in a larger world.
Truffaut plays Itard, a representative of the Age of Reason who never questions the benefits of civilization...Truffaut the filmmaker is more suspicious of Itard's motives...
Offers a reassuring liberal outlook that has the hubris to think that one can cure anyone who is ill with proper education and treatment.
often overlooked film will stimulate educators and anyone interested in the learning process
Probably the director's most ambitious film, The Wild Child spins a modern myth with resonances...and through it all Truffaut examines the many issues at hand with warmth, concern and wisdom.
The detail of the boy's journey from wild child to surrogate son of the doctor and his housekeeper is authentic and painstaking.
Audience Reviews for L' Enfant Sauvage (The Wild Child)
Many have criticised Francois Truffaut for making Wild Child, claiming that the film is far too clinical but is also of a subject matter that he wasn't academically capable of telling correctly. Many people criticised David Lynch in exactly the same way when he made The Elephant Man, which is now regarded as a classic and the only difference I can see between the two is that it seems more people have seen The Elephant Man - this true story being the better known of the two. First off, the young Jean-Pierre Cargol was fantastic as the Ferrel Victor, I'm amazed he didn't continue a career in acting. Also, the passion Truffaut felt for the story is evident in every scene, it's evident in the fact he didn't trust anyone but himself to star in it. It may have been clinical at time but the source material was from Dr. Jean Itard's notes and diary and actually transferring that to the screen was a very clever and original direction. I can't say I've seen it executed so successfully since other than in the aforementioned The Elephant Man. Personally, I loved it.More
Based on the subject and the director's nationality, I assumed that this film would be some kind of restatement or exploration of Rousseau's "noble savage" theory, and though there is some of this discussion in one or two lines, the film doesn't spend much time juxtaposing modernity and the "wild" child's original habitat. Based on all the critics' reviews, this film is an exploration or discussion of child development, but there is very little original presented here. So, I'm left struggling to figure out what this film is about and why people like it so much. I found the story to be merely a French, poor man's Miracle Worker, and I found the acting, especially by Truffaut, to be stilted and staid. Even Truffaut's direction lacks vigor. Almost every scene is a motionless three-quarter shot, backed by a heavy-handed harpsichord.
Overall, I neither found this intellectually nor emotionally compelling. Like Truffaut's acting, it was just there, saying nothing interesting or interestingly.
Truffaut's docu-drama about the discovery of a small boy living completely on his own in the forests of France in the late 18th century. Much more academic than most of his other films, it's nonetheless fascinating to watch. A study in child development and psychology.More
"The Wild Child" is an engaging film, but it's hard to guess why director Francois Truffaut felt compelled to tell this simple story. The premise (a patient 18th-century teacher, played by Truffaut himself, eases a feral pre-teen into civilization) is quite straightforward, and the boy doesn't advance enough to fully please an audience (you may be surprised when the film abruptly ends). And there aren't any notable directing choices beyond a few nostalgic iris shots. Perhaps this tale should be loosely filed with "Small Change" and "The 400 Blows" as just another look at children finding their way in the world.
Jean-Pierre Cargol is impressive in the title role. He only says one word, but is put through quite a physical test.
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