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Wild Tigers I Have Known

Although it takes artistic risks, Wild Tigers I Have Known feels more like another feature-length MTV video attempting once again to capture the 'Neo-Nevermind' generation.


Wild Tigers quickly brings us into the ambivalent mind-set of Logan (Malcolm Stumpf), a dreamy 13 year-old in the midst of a powerful sexual awakening. Told through static voice-overs, done in a muffled style, and an unabashed realism, 23-year-old director Cam Archer holds nothing back while telling this brutally honest coming-of-age tale. Logan is a daydreamer who drifts about in a constant state of melancholy, passively accepting the regular slings and arrows that come his way. He eventually finds and befriends Rodeo (Patrick White), a popular kid, equally somber, whom he follows around by day and dreams about by night. Thus, Rodeo--Logan's first real crush--becomes the catalyst of change as Logan faces certain transformation and the harsh prejudices that follow. Everything in Logan's world is bleak—from the school bullies who hate him because he is different, to his struggling young mother (Fairuza Balk), who lacks the capacity to understand him, to the hopeless school faculty unable to offer any guidance. He's a true fish out of water but marches on through each exhaustive moment, hoping to someday understand the nature of his feelings.


Stumpf's androgynous looks cast him perfectly as the pouting Logan. He's hunched, often shirtless, with a thatch of hair dangling over his brooding eyes and never strays from the sullen tone, delivering his soft, monosyllabic lines flawlessly. As the equally lost Rodeo, the handsome young White captures the essence of today's often disillusioned and often apathetic youth dead on. While Balk, although still a tad too young-looking to play the working mother of a teenage boy, brings an added realism to the supporting cast with her skill and signature gravely voice. TV actor Tom Gilroy shines in his small yet substantial part, as the idealistic school principal constantly calling school assemblies in a fruitless attempt to send some type of moral message to his checked-out students.


An obvious student of director Todd Solondz (Welcome to the Dollhouse), Larry Clark (Kids, Bully) and even Gus Van Sant (Drugstore Cowboy, Elephant), who executive produced Wild Tigers I Have Known, first-timer Cam Archer still explores filmmaking his way. Despite film-student-meets-MTV moments, his sensibilities come through clearly and honestly, patiently delivered as if we are watching a slideshow of vacation shots—except this flipbook attempts to illuminated a knotted mind. Archer truly has a keen eye for beauty. His dreamy scenes are often majestic, loaded with colorful symbols, creating video art rather than traditional narrative. But, to its detriment, the art tends to take over the story more often than not. Sadly, there is nothing in Wild Tigers that will surprise any devotee of Solondz, Van Sant or Clark, but it is clear why so many have taken an interest in the talented young Archer, who, fortunately, has many more years to hone his craft.

Bottom Line rated this film 2 1/2 stars.