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FEATURING: Malcolm Stumpf, Patrick White, Max Paradise,

PLOT: Logan, a junior high school student, explores his own identity and sexuality, developing a crush on a slightly older “bad boy”.

Still from "Wild Tigers I Have Known" (2006)

COMMENTS: The administrators are good at irrelevancy; the mother is good at volatility; the classmates are good at bigotry; and Logan is good at maintaining his solitude. He watches old movies, listens to late-night radio, and thinks. He thinks about death, he thinks about his peers, and lately he’s been thinking a good deal about Rodeo, a cynically charismatic, older schoolmate. Cam Archer’s feature debut, Wild Tigers I Have Known, is above all thoughtful. As it meditates on its protagonist, the narrative flow is meandering, with Logan approaching daily challenges and joys and starting to form an underlying identity.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but this movie should have hovered closer to “barely endurable” for me. However, it did not. (Had this been from a French filmmaker, I blanch at the prospect of my tirades about entrenched boredom and hack-handed pretension.) The variation in its filming style helps. Shots of Logan’s quotidian activities—unpleasant locker-room encounters, sudden outbursts from his mother, the respite he finds in old media—are intercut with more abstract cinematic representations: of memories, sexual fantasies, and day-dreams. The gauzier surrealism of these interludes occasionally bleeds into the realism of this boy’s life, but never smothers it.

Mostly, though, Wild Tigers I Have Known succeeded in maintaining my active interest because of its charming leads, genuine tenderness, and fitting ambiguity. It is unclear just what path Logan embarks upon, appropriate for someone of his age. Is he gay? He claims otherwise. Is he something different? Maybe. His relationship with an older boy hovers somewhere between friend and lover (never made quite clear), and Logan’s self-awareness evolves as the background metaphor (beware the mountain lions) plays out like an iron fist in a velvet glove.

Perhaps more than anything else, the closing shot won me over. This genre is (understandingly) populated by movies with depressing overtones and even more depressing endings. Wild Tigers I Have Known has a good share of setbacks for Logan, and ambient cruelty. But there are lights in his life, and though he may not quite know who he is or what he’s after, his dreams and memories begin to merge, if only a little, by the end. Cam Archer explores a slice of life before leaving his character to develop away from our prying eyes. Logan bids us a fond farewell, waving gaily at the camera before traipsing over the crest of a hill.


“A surreal, fragmented masturbatory fantasy whose vision of adolescence borrows elements from Elephant, Tarnation, Mysterious Skin and Donnie Darko…”—Stephen Holden, The New York Times (contemporaneous)

(This movie was nominated for review by “Henner,” who called it a “Strangely told coming-of-age story” with “Strong imagery and lots of dreamy stream-of-consciousness scenes.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

Where to watch Wild Tigers I Have Known

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