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the usual coming-
by Anthony Glassman
One of the most prominent signs that the LGBT civil rights movement was having an effect on society a few years back was the dawn of the ďtender queer coming-of-age story.Ē You know the sort of thing: Kid A and kid B are best friends, kid A is queer, and either they hook up or kid A winds up getting a girlfriend or boyfriend by the end of the film.
Follow My Voice and Wild Tigers I Have Known are not that sort of film.
This is not to say that either is a horrible, gloomy portrait of miserable children, filled with death and destruction. Well, maybe Wild Tigers, but itís kind of hard to tell.
Follow My Voice is two documentaries in one. It follows the making of Wig in a Box, an album of indie rock musicians recreating the songs made famous by John Cameron Mitchell in his stage musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, later turned into an independent cinema hit.
Queer youth are involved in two ways. First, the album is a benefit for the Hetrick-Martin Institute in New York, which runs Harvey Milk High School and a drop-in center.
Second, director Katherine Linton gave video cameras to four Hetrick-Martin kids and asked them to chronicle their lives, their thoughts, their dreams and aspirations.
The result is really five stories: The making of the album, and the lives of two lesbians, one transgendered teen and one gay boy, along with all their friends.
As one might expect, the kidsí lives are funny and hopeful and tragic and sad and exultant and restrained and exuberant, all crammed into teenaged form.
The album itself, barely glimpsed despite its constant presence in the film, is a wonder. Artists ranging from Cyndi Lauper (who does ďMidnight RadioĒ with the Minus 5) to Yo La Tengo, as well as queer artists like Rufus Wainwright, Bob Mould, Sleater-Kinney with the B-52sí Fred Schneider and Imperial Teen (who count among the band members Roddy Bottom, formerly of Faith No More). Polyphonic Spree, the Breeders, Robyn Hitchcock and Frank Black, among many other alternative giants, lend their talents to the project.
The DVD is being released by Wolfe Video, and was co-produced by the Sundance Channel. That sort of makes sense, since the Sundance Festival is where Hedwig became a household word, as opposed to an esoteric German name. When the film hit Sundance, Mitchell and his writing partner Stephen Trask became superstars with a great deal of clout in the entertainment business.
The CD Wig in a Box is available through most retailers, and also online at www.offrecords.com.
From the gritty, real and relatively uplifting, letís go to the ethereal, surreal and, well, itís difficult to tell whether itís uplifting, depressing or something else entirely: Cam Archerís Wild Tigers I Have Known.
Executive-produced by Gus Van Sant, the film follows 13-year-old Logan (Malcolm Stumpf), a lonely, effeminate boy with a burgeoning crush on Rodeo (Patrick White), a popular teenager in his school.
The older Rodeo befriends Logan and pays attention to him, something Logan is only used to from his equally-outcast friend Joey.
Loganís problem lies in trying to take his friendship with the older boy to a new level, a romantic one.
Logan comes up with a desperate, almost clever ploy to connect with Rodeo on that front, calling him while claiming to be a girl named Leah. He talks dirty, engages in a little phone sex, although Rodeo quickly dismisses the calls if ďLeahĒ doesnít want to meet him in person.
That sets up a Freudian climax in which secrets are revealed, and everything changes. It also engenders a new understanding between Logan and Joey, although there is no sudden blossoming of romance between them.
The largest question surrounding this film is, do you have to be on LSD to understand it, or does it just help?
Symbolism, surrealism and stream of consciousness combine to turn this 2007 Independent Spirit Award-winning film into a beautiful, disjointed tale that is as lush as it is hard to follow.
The sexualization of a 13-year-old may make some people uncomfortable. There is nothing particularly overt, but watching Loganís face as he is apparently masturbating can make one feel a bit like a pedophile.
The film is lush, with a vivid palette that lends it an almost hallucinatory air. While one would never recommend or condone the use of illegal chemical substances, it would be interesting to watch the film while under the influence of them.
Of course, the lions might be a little frightening at that point.
What, you ask, are lions doing in the film, especially when the title refers to tigers?
At the risk of sounding cruel, you have to watch the film to find out.