By Peter Hempstead
Tigers I Have Known"
written, and edited by Cam Archer
Malcolm Stumpf, Patrick White, Max Paradise,
Fairuza Balk, Kim Dickens
Young director Cam
Archer got a couple big
names--director/producer Gus Van
Sant and producer Scott
Rudin among them--to back his
first full-length feature, "Wild
Tigers I Have Known", an
overambitious coming-of-age story of gender
identity confusion and unrequited love.
Prepubescent loner Logan (Malcolm
Stumpf) develops a crush on
high school rebel Rodeo (Patrick White), and
pretty soon the gangling youth starts calling the
upperclassman on the phone using the voice of a
female persona, Leah. When Logan reveals himself
to the unreceptive Rodeo, the spurned boy goes
home, dons a wig, applies some lipstick, and tries
to imitate a girl whom Rodeo will love.
The story would be heartbreaking if it weren't
so slapdash. But Archer has tried too hard to
impress, or shock, or both, with incongruous feats
of filmmaking rather than with a solid narrative.
Balk ("American History X")
plays Logan's mom and thrums her lines with little
trace of her usual gusto. White plays the dour
Rodeo ably enough for a first-time actor, while
Stumpf ambles about dejectedly and communicates
more with his eyes than with his words.
Archer's desire to astonish with cinematic
legerdemain unfortunately overshadows all else.
Among his flourishes is a dreamlike room with
dozens of dangling light bulbs where Logan croons
through the phone to his beloved in Leah's sexy
voice without opening his mouth. It's an
experiment in surrealism that quickly becomes more
distracting than compelling.
Despite the inherent problems with the film, it
would be wrong to say that "Wild Tigers I Have
Known" is without merit. Archer's willingness to
experiment is laudable, but the trick is always to
match technique with a well-developed story. Some
have called the young Archer, at 24 years old, one
to watch, and that much seems certain. Wild Tigers
I Have Known is an apprentice piece by a director
who will hone his craft with time.
(As part of New Directors/New
Films it screened at Walter
Reade, April 1 2006 and MoMA,
April 2 2006)
[courtesy Hargrove Entertainment
Syndicate/Lucky Girl Media]