So much for the best-laid plans of mice and movie critics.
I was planning to devote this week's column to Cinematheque Ontario's Saturday afternoon screening of Lawrence Of Arabia - one of my two all-time favorite movies (the other is Jaws), and something you should move heaven and earth to see on film, rather than on television - but it's sold out. (A second screening has been scheduled for next Sunday night, so get your tickets while you can.)
As of now, tickets are still available for another Cinematheque revival happening this week - a new 35mm print of François Truffaut's The Wild Child is screening tonight and tomorrow.
In the last few months, The 400 Blows, Jules And Jim and Shoot The Piano Player have all enjoyed Toronto theatrical playdates. I'm not entirely sure why Truffaut's films are coming back with such a vengeance this year, but neither am I complaining; the man was a master filmmaker, and his work deserves to be screened as often as possible, to as large a crowd as possible.
The Wild Child is a particularly odd film for Truffaut; set at the twilight of the 18th century and based on a true story, it charts the slow blossoming of a human connection between a scientist (played by Truffaut himself) and the feral child (Jean-Pierre Cargol) he's been charged with evaluating. If the child is deemed incompetent, he'll be sent to an asylum. But if the scientist finds otherwise - if the boy is not just competent, but capable of learning - then anything, and everything, is possible.
This is a simple story, dramatically speaking; in lesser hands, this might have been a condescending Gallic riff on The Miracle Worker. But Truffaut planes it down to its elements; it's a testament to the emotional power of his storytelling that when I go over the movie in my memory, I don't think of the dialogue or even individual scenes. I picture the crinkling around the edges of Truffaut's eyes as he smiles, and the way the furtive cunning in Cargol's eyes mellows into something approaching sentience about halfway through the action.
Unlike Lawrence, which musters a considerable amount of its impact by virtue of its scale and sweep, you could watch The Wild Child on DVD, and it wouldn't lose any of its impact ... though Nestor Almendros' gorgeous black-and-white cinematography certainly aren't fully appreciated on a small screen. Better to see it projected, bigger than life. It's what François would have wanted.
Oh, and speaking of the glories of black-and-white, a new 35mm print of Akira Kurosawa's gripping TohoScope thriller High And Low is hitting the Bloor for a limited run, starting Wednesday night. If your image of Kurosawa is as an old man making Shakespearean feudal dramas in a field somewhere, this utterly contemporary adaptation of Evan Hunter's kidnap-thriller novel King's Ransom should shatter that illusion right quick.