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FilmExposed Film Reviews

A FilmExposed Film Review

Wild Tigers I Have Known (18)

Wild Tigers I Have Known (18)

Dir: Cam Archer, 2005, USA, 81 mins
Cast: Malcolm Stumpf, Patrick White, Fairuza Balk

Wild Tigers I Have Known employs a range of experimental strategies to evoke the inner world of protagonist Logan (Stumpf), a confused gay teen growing up in a quiet suburb of Santa Cruz, California.

Logan faces the normal anxieties of puberty, but his awakening sexuality is complicated by the awareness he is ‘different’. Socially isolated and left to his own devices by his youthful single Mum (Balk), Logan suffers homophobic abuse from his peers. He develops an agonising crush on the cool kid in school, Rodeo (White), who befriends him though his motivations are unclear. They form an unlikely friendship, taking long walks together in the neighbouring woods. His crush deepening, Logan invents a female alter ego Leah, to engage in provocative phone conversations with the unsuspecting Rodeo, and starts experimenting with cross-dressing.

Wild Tigers is Archer’s feature debut, but the 24-year old writer-director’s unique storytelling style will be familiar to those who have seen his short films. The dazzling Bobbycrush, which screened at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival, captures the pleasure and pain of teen infatuation and unrequited love - themes which are refined in Wild Tigers. Archer’s film script attracted the support of GUS VAN SANT, who came on board as an executive producer, boosting the project’s status.

The film’s central motif, denoted by its title, is the mountain lion that has begun to stray into peopled areas surrounding Logan’s school. Logan feels a natural affinity with the animal, imagining it to be a misunderstood outsider like himself. The lion also represents an untamed aspect of Logan’s psyche. Primarily a sensory experience, Wild Tigers has a loose narrative and sparse dialogue. Heavily saturated primary colours, jump-edits and imaginative interludes combine to create a dreamscape world that challenges cinematic conventions. Footage of bugs is superimposed over the main action, and scenes are heightened by the eerie sound design. Logan, who struggles to articulate his feelings, writes his thoughts in lipstick over his bare torso, billboard-style. However, the repeated use of these devices can sometimes seem like overkill, as though Archer is trying a little too hard to be avant-garde.

Wild Tigers is a highly personal film and arguably, Archer may be recounting his own experiences through the protagonist. In contrast to the more mature Rodeo, Logan is androgynous and remains childlike in appearance. This is problematic as the shots of him lounging around half-clothed, and masturbating, can feel uncomfortable. Yet, there is a certain charm in his portrayal of an alienated boy struggling to define himself. It is clear there are no easy answers in Logan’s quest. As Archer states: ‘Though I wanted… for Logan to find himself in a “happy place”, I knew that for him to reach such a place, such perfection, would be unrealistic’.

Archer’s part reality, part fantasy approach to cinema won’t be to everyone’s liking. However, with its flashes of lyricism, Wild Tigers is still an arresting film and deserves wider attention.


Saba Chaudry

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