Wild Tigers I Have Known

2007, Movie, NR, 93 mins

Review

WILD TIGERS I HAVE KNOWN
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Making a film about a young looking 14-year-old boy's sexual fantasies is a pretty risky gambit, but photographer, video-director and now first-time feature filmmaker Cam Archer turns what might have been an exercise in salaciousness into a stylish visual poem about desire and adolescent alienation.

Fourteen-year-old Logan (Malcolm Stumpf) is a sensitive loner who can sympathize with the mountain lion that was recently spotted and killed right outside the doors of his junior high school, and whose appearance on school grounds has triggered a wave of panic throughout the community. Living in a small house with his short-tempered, single mother (Fairuza Balk), Logan is convinced that everyone hates him just as they hated and feared that mountain lion, and he might be right: The only kids who bother to pay Logan any mind are the ones who punch him in the face. Logan's one friend is Joey (Max Paradise), a kid his age who might actually harbor more than just friendly feelings towards him, but Logan's become interested in Rodeo (Patrick White), a brooding, slightly older whom Logan finally gets up the nerve to talk to after a visit with the school therapist (Deadwood's Kim Dickens). Rodeo claims to have seen the mountain lions a few times out in the woods, and even offers to show Logan where they live. Rodeo and Logan start spending time together after school, far from the eyes of the other kids, but for Logan it's clearly more than just a friendship. When Rodeo gives him his phone number, Logan dons a black mask pretends to be a girl named Leah, calling Rodeo late at night seducing him with a round of phone sex. The next time Logan calls, however, "Leah" agrees to meet Rodeo the caves where Rodeo once told him the lions live and where, Rodeo says, a kid once killed himself (a pretty common occurrence at school, it seems). A face-to-face meeting, however, will mean finally revealing his true desires to the one person Logan seems to care about.

Whatever it's stylistic excesses, the film is a gorgeous piece of work, filled with color, interesting lighting and compositions, and such esoteric cultural artifacts like a recording of Bill Dana performing his famous "Jose Jiminez" routine and an early video tape of Nina Simone singing Pentangle's "When I Was in My Prime." Using the gay sexuality of young teenage males as a provocative starting point, Archer finds himself clearly under the spell of novelist Dennis Cooper, director Gus Van Sant (who served as executive producer on Archer's film) and Laura Albert, the writer formerly known as JT Leroy. Stylistically, however, he's not too far from David Gordon Green's GEORGE WASHINGTON in his use of a drowsy voiceover delivering what can sound unapologetically like bad teenage poetry. Such excesses should be chalked up to youth — Archer was only 24 when he and cinematographer Aaron Platt shot the film — and it'll be interesting to see where he heads next. Hopefully it'll be somewhere a little less self-consciously "arty"; that the guy's an artist is already abundantly clear. leave a comment --Ken Fox

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Wild Tigers I Have Known
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