Long before Howie Mandel’s 1987 comedic raised-by-wolves role in Walk Like a Man, there was—arguably, of course—a far superior cinematic masterpiece about feral children: François Trauffaut’s 1970 drama The Wild Child, now in a new 35mm print at Film Forum. Playing the lead role as Dr. Itard, Trauffaut tells the story of a young boy found in a forest in southern France at the turn of the 19th century. Based on actual events, the film delivers Dr. Itard’s observations in diary form (via voiceover) with nostalgic black-and-white photography by Néstor Almendros. Jean-Pierre Cargol stars as the young savage, whose ferocious performance perfectly counterbalances the compassionate and patient role of the well-meaning doctor. Ultimately, the film makes us wonder who truly benefits—if any—from the child’s civilizing.

Nov. 10-13, 2008