Wild Tigers I Have Known
THE MOVIE Logan (Malcolm Stumpf) is like most 13-year-olds. He's neither cool nor popular, preferring to wallow away his minutes by himself if he's not spending time with his science-nerd friend Joey (Max Paradise). Home life is a bit off-kilter, as his overstressed single mother (Fairuza Balk) alternately coddles or berates him. He feels equally out of place in junior high, that incubator for young adults where everything from social interactions to your own body feels like it should come with a user-friendly manual. Like his classmates, Logan is awkwardly maturing, his boyishness starting to harden into a young man's angular features but still soft enough to be slightly effeminate. With his full-lipped half smile and waterfall of dark hair hiding his eyes, the expressive Stumpf looks like Rid of Me-era P.J. Harvey or the Bar-B-Q Killers' late Laura Carter in Athens, Ga.: Inside/Out.
What makes Logan most unlike his peers, though, is the way he is beginning to understand his homosexuality. Writer/director Cam Archer's Wild Tigers I Have Known is that often most unfortunate movie--the candidly personal coming-of-age tale--but like Lisa Krueger's Manny and Lo or David Gordon Green's George Washington, it's the rare one that doesn't condescend to its young people and finds an almost dreamlike visual vocabulary to give rich, layered depth to their inner lives.
Though Logan's sexuality experiments aren't the stuff of Dennis Cooper, they're enough to let Logan know maybe he shouldn't be as outward about sharing what he's thinking with his peers. He puts on some lipstick for a snapshot with Joey that perplexes his friend; he finds himself staring at older boys as they shower off after the pool. And while he does masturbate one night while wearing an oversized pair of sunglasses to thoughts of two guys wrestling, it's not the imagery of oiled-up hunks writhing together but rather the sort of mundane thing he might have seen on a TV wrestling match. Wild Tigers allows Logan to find the erotic in his mundane life.
It's a light touch, but one probably all to familiar to small-town boys whose only access to male bodies were found on the underwear pages of the Sears catalog. And while Archer is a tad self-consciously arty about the story--a mountain lion is found and killed near Logan's school, and the symbolic connection between the outsider young boy and the outsider cat becomes a little too short-story precious--the director makes up for it in his casual honesty. Logan befriends an older boy, Rodeo (Patrick White), upon whom the young boy fixates. You know this infatuation isn't going to go over well, but Archer thankfully doesn't dip into the maudlin. Instead he maintains his movie's oneiric pace, and calmly lets the inevitable junior-high indignities take place--such as the hand-written "People who think Logan is a fag" list taped to Logan's hall locker. Wild Tigers I Have Known isn't the sort of movie that leaves you feeling blown away, rather one that you find yourself thinking about over and over again.
THE DISC Very limited extras: a trailer that feels more suited to film-festival auditions than coming-attraction teaser and a music video to Emily Jane White's title song.