Wild Tigers I Have Known 2006
1h 28min | Drama | 25 May 2007 (UK)
Junior high in a time of rotary phones. Cougars have been spotted in the area. Logan is 13, the odd kid, with an active imagination and few friends. His young, single mother seems stressed. Latency is giving way to puberty, and Logan, who keeps a tube of lipstick in his dresser, may be gay or, more mysterious, transgender. He stares at himself in the mirror. He becomes friends with Rodeo, older and more mature, good-looking, with girlfriends. They take walks. Logan calls Rodeo and pretends to be a girl. Will he disclose himself to Rodeo? The kids at school talk. The school wants to promote kindness and tolerance. There are stories of child suicide. How do we find our way?
Cudos to Archer, Stumpf, cast and crew! I saw this film at Sundance ’06, and it was a very powerful experience. After leaving the theater, the movie stayed in my head for days in a way that most of the other films I saw at the festival didn’t. This is a very beautiful, sensitive and intelligent film that fills a gap desperately in need of filling. From the opening shot until the end, this film has real style – style adeptly tempered to serve the film’s meaning. The amazing audiotrack and moody cinematography juxtapose marvelously together into that haunting feeling that everyone can relate to – that terrible obsession that dominates everyone’s youth experience: the Crush. But what made this film so memorable is the way in which that crush is conveyed. The film succeeds to frankly and respectfully navigate the subject of teen sexuality without ever feeling obscene. The movie comes off not so much “sexy” as it is simply beautiful, intimate and scary. The director lets each scene unfold slowly; the shots are methodical, precise and poignant; the film is lovely with an undercurrent of dread. Logan (played by the eminently watchable Malcolm Stumpf) to his credit never seems to be acting, but rather the primary characters are allowed to simply exist naturally on screen, allowing the story, cinematography and soundtrack convey the message. There are no monologues, no exaggerated displays of emotion or angst – except for one positively soaring performance by Fairuza Balk playing Logan’s self-absorbed mother. There is teen drama without melodrama. Logan’s just a normal small quiet boy thrust into adolescence, outcast, uncool and powerless, searching for a personal identity that will enable him to satisfy the feelings he cannot admit to having.
The heartbreak and trauma we all experience during our awkward youth stays with us and defines our lives forever. Being a gay adolescent is even more confusing. There are no role models to look up to. No compass to guide. No gay professional athletes in sports, no gay marquee actors on the silver screen, no gay politicians, no gay teachers. The majority of “queer cinema” yields only stereotypes and caricatures. The violence this lack of role models imposes upon the self image of gay teens is an abominable disgrace that future enlightened generations will look back upon in shame. This is the conflict that Logan must endure. And this is perhaps what writer-director Cam Archer is looking to rectify. In a world fixated on the fetish of youth, the young are exploited and sold empty style by a media machine that doesn’t care about substance. Perhaps one day when movies like this wonderful film are shown in the multiplexes of mid-America as the normal faire de jour (and that day will most likely never come), film historians will look back to Wild Tigers as a seminal piece that had the courage to openly, realistically and artfully look at love as it is. Until that day, I will proudly display my ticket stub on my wall next to my autographed poster (thanks guys) and proclaim, “I was there when it all happened. I saw a film that had the guts to matter.”
Director: Cam Archer
Writer: Cam Archer
Stars: Malcolm Stumpf, Patrick White, Max Paradise