Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Psst! LegalMist - did I get the title right this time?

Gentle Readers,

I've told you how I love The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and some other great French movies, but I don't think I've ever mentioned the French films that first got me started on the movies of Frogland. Hmmm . . . why are the French called Frogs? Is it because they eat them? I may never have the answer to some questions, and sometimes I would rather wonder than google.

It's kind of fun to have unanswered questions in one's life.

As I recalled in an earlier post, a young woman, let's call her Prissy,  introduced me to French movies with the adorable Amelie, but when I wrote that post I had completely forgotten that I watched some Francois Truffaut movies for a class on film techniques I took long ago.

So I was actually a French-film virgin when I watched The Wild Child.

The year is 1798 -- in the MOVIE, dummies. Good God, I know I'm old but I'm not that old and just stop with the insults now or I'll never get through writing this. A woman in a forest sees a wild creature. The creature has long, matted hair, and he runs about on all fours, but he does not have paws; he has hands and feet. He is the titular wild child, apparently left in the forest to die. Instead, he has survived, and he is captured and introduced to the wilds of civilization. Thus, Truffaut presents the wild child as an archetypal orphan figure who moves from experience to innocence.

It is made clear to the viewer immediately that the wild child is experienced in the ways of living in the woods. When the woman who has seen him brings men with dogs to hunt and to capture him (sounds kinda like "civilization" going after Frankenstein's monster, doesn't it?), the boy climbs a tree. When the branch from which he hangs breaks, he is attacked by the dogs, but he is able to fight the dogs and kill one. He runs into an underground den, and he is captured only because the men smoke him out.

Truffaut also indicates the savagery of so-called civilized society in contrast to the boy, who is savage only when he feels he is being attacked. When the boy is taken to Paris to be examined by doctors, he becomes an object of curiosity, and he no longer knows how to survive. First, he is dragged from the carriage in which he travels and taken into the National Institute for the Deaf -- because he is believed to be deaf -- and a crowd gathers round to gawk at him. He is also put on display by an institute worker so that rich Parisians can wonder at him. When he is outside, other boys attack him.

The wild child changes though. Dr. Itard (Truffaut himself) takes the boy home to teach him. He learns to dine at the table and dress himself. He doesn't learn to speak, but he starts to understand the meanings of some words.

Truffaut is considered to be one of the greatest among great directors, and I think his techniques in this movie are very interesting. Its stark black and white images make us feel that we are in 1798, watching this true story unfold. When subjects move away from the camera, the camera does not zoom in on them; they simply become smaller. Truffaut's use of an iris to open and close segments seems old-fashioned in an appropriate way, and it allows us to focus on the changes in Victor.

I remember I really liked this movie when I watched it and it left me wondering what had happened to the real wild child. But again, I like pondering an occasional unanswered question.

Infinities of love,


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