Sunday, 3 September 2017

SHADOW NETTES - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Sick puppy Barker dazzles at TIFF 2017

An angler must know how to capture his quarry.

Phillip Barker is clearly one of Canada’s leading avant-garde film artists. He is also clearly one sick puppy. This, however, is a good thing. His new film Shadow Nettes expertly demonstrates the fine art of angling, but be advised, we’re not talking the quarry sought in the likes of actor/musician/director John Lurie’s immortal 1991 PBS cult series Fishing With John (1991) nor any of the fine array of reality-TV-based output on offer at the World Fishing Network.

Beginning in the late-19th-Century never-never land of a rich mixed forest overlooking a bucolic lake, we are introduced to a lanky, long-tressed, golden-locked young man of the rural persuasion (imagine Max Baer from The Beverly Hillbillies as Jethrine Beaudine sans a floral-patterned dress and adorned, rather, in Jethro’s dude-duds) who observes his father sailing the waters upon a queer conical vessel with a wide, round platform, stilts reaching and converging to a point up top with a platform situated at its most heavenly point, which holds a mysterious box-like filter.

What manner of contraption is this?

Well, of course, it’s a shadow nette. Duh! Grab a brain!

We continue on Barker’s strange journey to witness Dad attempting to train Sonny-Jethro, not unlike the Pat Morita/Ralph Macchio teacher-student gymnastics immortalized in John G. Avildsen’s The Karate Kid. Dad strikes a series of manly poses. Sonny-Jethro awkwardly attempts to mimic them.

At nightfall, however, we get the most delectable demonstration of all. The shadow nette is placed upon the rugged ground of the Canadian Shield and Dad steps inside it. From the thinnest end of the cone, light beams onto the round, white, net-like screen at the bottom end. Dad stands before the screen, casting a shadow upon it.

But what is a shadow when it doesn’t behave?

Shadows are never what they seem to be. The light casts Dad’s shadow, but the shadow has a life of its own. This is no mere replication of his image. Dad demonstrates that he must control light and shadow to create the image he wants to present. This, of course, is not dissimilar to the image most gentlemen wish to present, especially in their pursuit of a mate.

This pursuit, this quarry, is ages old.

As his picture progresses, Barker delivers one visual jaw-dropper after another as he reveals the full force and power of the subject at hand, to capture an image of oneself, the manipulation of said image to capture its quarry and ultimately, to not only capture it, but indeed, create it out of one’s own image.


Shadow Nettes enjoys its World Premiere at TIFF 2017.