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Wild Tigers I Have Known | Review

Logan’s Run

Archer’s excels in visually addressing the wonder years.

Usually child fantasy films are made up of things like unicorns, flying carpets, animals dressed up in civilian clothes and not junior wrestling teams and fearful stuff you’d find in African jungles. Carving up a fantasy film of his own, Cam Archer’s directorial debut looks at the formidable young years of growing up gay, and such as the protagonist’s path to self-discovery, Archer’s cinematic style is a world to discover in itself. While some might find that his first feature might work better as installation art piece, Wild Tigers I Have Know is a unique, gutsy hallucinogen of a art-house movie that should be a hard sell on the theatrical release circuit but should be a highlight on the film festival tour.

Many years away from having stubble on his face, the young pre-teen protagonist (played by Malcolm Stumpf) is going through the full-blown sexual learning phase without the Playboy or Hustler magazine but instead borrows a wig, lipstick and alters his voice. The explosive force of sexuality that comes along with puberty causes an emotional growth spurt that creates a whiplash effect and thus the narrative builds on the notion of attraction. Here is using the lure of female attraction in his attempts of getting closer to an older boy. Work-shopped at the Sundance Lab and unveiled at the 06 edition of the festival, this challenging coming-out of the closet phase comes across like Blue Velvet for the G-rated crowds with morsels of Mysterious Skin with the absence of a predator and familiar notes from doc psychodrama Tarnation because of Archer’s use of recorded sound and shots that remind of possible gender perplexities. Lack of parental supervision is disconcerting but not unusual as youth often fends for itself.

Filmed in vivid HD technology and with a conscious set décor, the film comes across like a video clip from a Seattle grunge band – Archer plays with lighting and frames his subjects from different angles. Using a non-actor in the central role adds to the notion of new discovery and the adjacent shots of a child staring into a mirror deals with issues of identity. The many fades to black and Archer’s experimental storytelling approach certainly addresses the symbolic changes that are undergoing in the young man’s changing body and fantasies, but it also shows that there is a lopsidedness that favors the visual results over the narrative cohesiveness.

Cinematographer Aaron Platt and music director by family collaborator Nate Archer assure a surplus of aesthetic experimental flourishes that is rarely seen in low budget productions, but a factory of pretty pictures and intriguing sounds over fulfill the film’s premise. Some Sundance films such as Me and You and Everyone we Know provide a balance that harvests style, ideas and storyline but this will be a tough sell for those who enjoy the coming-of-age format. Call this an ambitious calling card that clearly puts Archer on the map of talents to look out for.

Festival de Nouveau Cinema 2006.

Rating 2 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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