By Jeff Walsh
"Wild Tigers I Have Known" is a visual collage of pubescent sexuality at its most yearning. I've heard it described in several places as a gay youth film, but it could just as easily be about a biological boy questioning whether he is a trans girl. And if you want answers to such basic questions, you aren't going to find them in this movie.
Right up front, I will declare that I like linear narratives. I like stories that begin, something happens, and then they end. Doesn't have to be a happy Hollywood ending, but I like to think I was on a journey of some sort. So, a movie where not much of anything occurs, with lots of jump cuts to nature shots and strange video, is not really my idea of a good time.
The main character, Logan, is 13 and develops an unlikely friendship with an older boy named Rodeo. There's a running story about mountain lions being seen in the area, and Rodeo says he knows where they live in the woods, so he offers to show Logan. Their friendship continues, and eventually Logan's crush on Rodeo manifests itself in a persona he creates names Leah. Logan (as Leah) starts having a sexual phone dialogue with Rodeo, which eventually leads to Rodeo going to meet Leah in person for sex, expecting it to be someone female.
I won't say what happens, but for some sense of what you're up for in this movie, the following three scenes directly follow the Rodeo/Leah in-person confrontation:
- Logan, in face paint and a Native American headdress, turning the crank on a music box in his bed
- Login sitting in his front yard, as the sprinkler is on
- Logan splayed out on the floor of a roller rink, wearing roller skates, while Rodeo finally appears in frame, skating around him.
If you're wondering what those scenes could possibly have to do with the confrontation, or even, why they would need to be in the movie, then you're getting a sense of what you're in for... for the duration of the movie.
This is an 80 minute movie that seems much longer, and not in a good way. That it is executive produced by Gus Van Sant is not surprising, because his style lately is also pretty similar, as far as sluggish editing and lack of narrative. If you edited out all of the parts of this movie that don't contain dialogue, it would probably only have a running time of under 10 minutes.
The upside is that there are some very interesting visuals in the movie, and director Cam Archer does show promise in that regard. Of course, for me, that promise would be marrying strong visuals with decent storytelling, something even Tim Burton has largely been unable to do for much of his career (with very few exceptions).
So, I think the movie captures some of the angst of early adolescent sexual confusion, but doesn't package it in a way that brings more (if anything at all) to the picture. But, if you like more experimental, visual collages that avoid narrative like the plague, build metaphors about mountain lions/tigers that don't seem to pay off all that much (if at all), and keep you guessing as to what it is you're watching (and, very often, why you're watching), then your dream movie is playing in limited release throughout the rest of this year.
See the trailer here.
Visit the Wild Tigers website here to find out if/when it is coming to a theater near you.