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One summer day in 1798, a naked boy eleven or twelve years of age (Jean-Pierre Cargol) is found in a forest in the rural district of Aveyron in southern France. A woman sees him, then runs off screaming. She finds some hunters and tells them that she saw a wild boy. They hunt him down with a pack of dogs (a Beauceron, a German Shepherd, an Airedale Terrier and an English Springer Spaniel). The dogs, upon picking up the boy's scent, chase him up a tree. A branch breaks off, and the dogs attack him when he falls. He fights them off leaving them wounded, then continues to flee and hides in a hole. Unfortunately, the dogs find him, smoke him out of the hole, and grab him. Living like a wild animal and unable to speak or understand language, the child has apparently grown up in solitude in the forest since an early age. He is brought to Paris and initially placed in a school for "deaf-mutes". Dr. Jean Marc Gaspard Itard (François Truffaut) observes the boy and believes that he is neither deaf nor, as some of his colleagues believe, an "idiot". Itard thinks the boy's behavior is a result of his deprived environment, and that he can be educated. Itard takes custody of the boy, whom he eventually names Victor, and removes him to his house on the outskirts of Paris. There, under the patient tutelage of the doctor and his housekeeper (Françoise Seigner), Victor gradually becomes socialized and acquires the rudiments of language. There is a narrow margin between the laws of civilization in rough Parisian life and the brutal laws of life in nature. Victor finds a sort of equilibrium in the windows that mark the transition between the closed interiors and the world outside. But he gains his ability to have social relations by losing his capacity to live as a savage.
Source : Wikipedia
The screenwriter Jean Gruault and the director François Truffaut were inspired by the early nineteenth-century journal of Jean Marc Gaspard Itard, which was based on the true events surrounding The Wild Boy of Aveyron, as the boy was called.
Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film a positive review and discussed the film's theme is one of Truffaut's favorites. He wrote, "The story is essentially true, drawn from an actual case in 18th Century France, and Truffaut tells it simply and movingly. It becomes his most thoughtful statement on his favorite subject: The way young people grow up, explore themselves, and attempt to function creatively in the world...Truffaut places his personal touch on every frame of the film. He wrote it, directed it, and plays the doctor himself. It is an understated, compassionate performance, a perfect counterpoint to Jean-Pierre Cargol's ferocity and fear...So often movies keep our attention by flashy tricks and cheap melodrama; it is an intellectually cleansing experience to watch this intelligent and hopeful film."
The staff at Variety magazine also praised the drama, and wrote, "This is a lucid, penetrating detailing of a young doctor's attempt to civilize a retarded boy found living in the woods in Southern France in the 18th century. Though based on a true case [Jean Itard's Memoire et Rapport sur Victor de L'Aveyron, published in 1806], it eschews didactics and creates a poetic, touching and dignified relationship between the doctor and his savage charge...It progresses slowly but absorbingly. Truffaut underplays but exudes an interior tenderness and dedication. The boy is amazingly and intuitively well played by a tousled gypsy tyke named Jean-Pierre Cargol. Everybody connected with this unusual, off-beat film made in black-and-white rates kudos."
FIlm critic Vincent Canby liked the acting, and wrote, "The Wild Child is not the sort of movie in which individual performances can be easily separated from the rest of the film, but young Cargol, who early in the film looks and sounds like a Mediterranean Patty Duke, responds with marvelous, absolute faith to his costar and director, Truffaut, who himself performs with humane, just slightly self-conscious cool."
Source : Wikipedia