At The Movies
Punk rock punctuates live score showing of The Serpent at the North Door
Pretty much no one thinks about punk rock music as the ideal accompaniment for black and white, silent Japanese samurai movies that are close to a century old, but for Justin Sherburn that’s exactly the point.
For his second go around performing a live film score with his ad hoc band Montopolis, Sherburn — more well known as the keyboardist for Austin indie rockers Okkervil River — decided to get as far out there as he could.
Local film fans will get a chance to see and hear that unorthodox blend Friday night when the North Door shows Orochi (The Serpent), a 1925 Japanese action film, backed by the six-piece rock group with string players.
“I grew up playing punk rock and I don’t get a chance to play that very often now, so I knew I wanted something with some action,” Sherburn said. “I asked friends for ideas for a good film and made lots of trips to I Love Video and Vulcan Video and [then] I started doing an Iggy and The Stooges stuff over the fight scenes and it was just about perfect.”
Held up as one of the first samurai films to feature realistic fight scenes, The Serpent is something of a rare and lost classic of far east action films. It follows a noble warrior who continually makes enemies with authorities and elites, while trying to uphold his honor and protect people close to him, making it a rare downer for the genre as well.
While its many action sequences will feature intense rock music, Sherburn said the more staid scenes will have dramatic and moody music influenced by the work of 1940s film composer Bernard Hermann.
“It’s the best of both worlds and my concept is to make it relatable and more enjoyable by letting people get more into the feel of the movie,” he said. “Between the music and the action on the screen they really pull each other along, and that’s all you need.”
Montopolis’ first live score performance came last summer at the Alamo Drafthouse on South Lamar, for a showing of the 1929 experimental Russian documentary Man With A Movie Camera, and Sherburn said he’s already plotting out his next outing with plans for using archival western films of the type later popularized by Clint Eastwood and John Wayne.
“I’m a big fan of [western film composer] Ennio Morricone and I came close to doing that sort of movie this time, so that’s what’s probably next,” he said. “I’ve got to do some more research, but with those public domain films you can do your own edits on them, so I think we can have some fun.”