Andre Perkowski’s “Nova Express”: Phil Proctor reads “The Subliminal Kid” and “The Control Machine”

By and on July 1, 2015

L.A.-based filmmaker Andre Perkowski’s Nova Express is an experimental anti-narrative cinematic experience, a kind of ongoing, unfolding pastiche of found footage cobbled together from seemingly random sources, while the soundtrack features a host of recognizable folks reading from William S. Burroughs’s 1964 novel of the same name, people like Allen Ginsberg, Kathleen Cecchin and even Burroughs himself; for this excerpt, we’re hearing a Night Flight fave and latest contributor, Phil Proctor of the Firesign Theatre, reading an excerpt called “The Subliminal Kid.”

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The 3-hour-plus Nova Express has been shown a handful of times at film festivals, and yet for each separate screening, the experience is a bit different because Perkowski has kept adding to the film over a ten year period.

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You can watch individual portions of Nova Express on Perkowski’s Youtube channel, of course, but we think it’d be great to see up on a big screen sometime, don’t you?

Burroughs — who died in 1997 — famously employed the “cut-up” method on the novel Nova Express, which he’d devised with writer-artist Brion Gysin, an anti-narrative method that involved randomly splicing together phrases from various sources and inserting them into his own text, telling us about a Nova police detective, Inspector Lee, tasked with saving the planet from the virus of words and images by which malignant entities control and parasitically consume the human race. He and his colleagues hunt down the viral humanoids who infest and enslave unwitting hosts.

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Perkowski uses all sorts of visual mnemonics here, lots of imagery we’ve all seen before —1950s-era secret military base footage, fedora’d film noir detectives, stethoscoped doctors plunging hypodermic needles into prone patients, and lots of UFO imagery and astronaut-looking spacemen — and the effect is both familiar and strange at the same time.

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According to this excellent interview he did with realitystudio.org, more than five years ago, what we’re seeing in the full-length Nova Express is about 30% originally shot footage by Perkowski, mixed with, in his own words, “every medium I could get my dirty fingers on — video, 8mm, Super-8, 16mm, ancient Soviet filmstock, early ’80s black and white gun camera film used for recording kills, surplus shit of every stinking variety. I’ve shot tons of stopmotion animation, built crab guards, death dwarves, oven guards, Minraudian madness and more.”

The music is by Kristin Palker & Andre Perkowski.

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Andre Perkowski

Here’s Phil Proctor reading “The Control Machine”:

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.