Los Angeles artist Andre Perkowski is a cinematic meddler. He rifles through public domain film footage picking out the bits he likes, then he weaves them together into montages and full-length works. One of the most interestingly Frankensteined of them all arrives in Dallas Saturday night for the Oak Cliff Film Festival -- it's a special project commissioned by a quartet of modern composers out of Houston, the Two Star Symphony, who play live with the film.
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With funds gathered from a Houston Art Alliance Established Artist grant, the musicians reached out to Perkowski, hiring him to create this new -- and extremely old -- Batman flick you see teased above.
The precursor concept gets more enticing when you learn that Perkowski gathered footage of actual source material that inspired Batman's creators, Bob Kane and Bill Finger. For example, when introducing "The Bat-Man" in the original 1939 Detective Comics, Kane modeled the Joker's fiendish grin after the title character of an old Victor Hugo novel, The Man Who Laughs. For this new/old film, Perkowski chops and screws Laugh's 1928 silent film adaptation starring Conrad Veidt, stitching those stills into this new narrative.
It was the mysterious noir reel The Bat Whispers that Kane patterned his Dark Knight after. Perkowski researched and tracked down that 1930 footage, dissecting its frames into usable and unusable Bat content. The same treatment was given to other early villainous iterations of Scarecrow, Penguin, Poison Ivy and Cat-Woman. Plot gaps are then handily filled in with title cards.
The musicians behind the project keep the auditory component equally off-kilter. The group worked with Perkowski, lengthening and shortening scenes so they'd choreograph properly with this composition, which the group performs by memory on matched instruments. Saturday's airing of Silent Shadow of The Bat-Man is just the second time the work has screened publicly, with only one other performance in Houston in 2012. Individual tickets cost $15. Get 'em on the Oak Cliff Film Festival's homepage.