Film Kurutta ippêji (Page of Madness) (1926)
Director: Teinosuke Kinugasa
Cast: Masuo Inoue, Yoshie Nakagawa and Ayako Iijima
Review: This film, you guys. one of my all-time favorites. Have flailed for hours attempting to talk about it without just giving up and linking you to Midnight Eye's review instead, but here goes.
the tl;dr version: A Page of Madness is a disjointed and sorrowful story of a family tied to an asylum. It is confusing as shit, but it will blow your mind. It's rare, and difficult to follow because of the subject matter, non-linear structure, and of course because it's a silent film with NO title cards--but A Page of Madness is an absolutely brilliant piece of avante-garde storytelling. Midnight Eye writes, "a synopsis of the plot can't begin to explain the power of the film, nor the audacity of its vision."
Longer version & film clip below:
In 1923 the Kanto earthquake destroyed nearly all of the film studios in Tokyo, devastating Japan's film industry and causing many films to be lost. By the 1930's, business was back on track, but the government took a firm hand in diverting the direction of the studios away from the avante-garde and experimental movements of the 20's and toward the more firmly nationalist themes that would underpin the films of Kurosawa and others into the mid-century. Made in 1926 and considered by Kinugasa to be his best work, Page of Madness slots right into the middle of the period in which various schools of thought were duking it out for dominance in Japanese cinema. Kinugasa was totally from the "IN YOUR FACE" school of filmmaking, and it shows spectacularly in this film. With its frenetic editing and its spectacularly wide range of early cinematic techniques, it bursts onto the screen and pulses there, in a frenzied homage to performance art that feels, 85 years later, so vibrant and fresh it's almost like watching a live presentation.
You're probably thinking, but Aja, why would I want to watch a silent film with no titles? The reason is because you will rarely find a film that is so skilled at evoking incredible visceral reactions from its audience by relying almost completely on visual cues and the techniques of 1920's avante-garde filmmaking that were soon to be obliterated by the influences of commercialism over the film industry.
The short feature below is a collection of clips from near the end of the film, but it's enough to give you an idea of the film's startling level of power and madness. Not to mention that it features one of my favorite things about the film--psychological breakdown through dance that makes the ballet of Black Swan look like a stately and restrained gavotte.
And all of this is:
- without the benefit of a soundtrack or titles, subbed or otherwise, to give you more than a bare sense of the plot
- pulled from a miraculously salvaged single print that was pulled from a storage bin in the director's garage after being lost for fifty years. That's right; Page of Madness vanished off the face of the earth after a studio fire, and was believed extinct until 1971. The original cut actually was a full third longer than this, but what is here is mesmerizing and profound.
Other Reviews: Drive-in Cinema's review and film summary; Midnight Eye.com's feature article on the film: "For Japan in 1926 it is unique and important as a manifesto of Film as Art and of Art as International and Absolute."
About Blogathon week: I plan on posting once a day between now and next Monday.
If you'd like to join me, just grab a banner and link your post on the roundup!
Films I'm planning to review include Shohei Imamura's Vengeance is Mine (serial killers!!!!), Perfect Blue (maybe compared to Inception?), Audition (serial killers!!!!), and Ozu's Floating Weeds. But I'm open to anything, and especially if you make a donation of at least $10 to any of the charities linked in any of these posts, I will make my best effort to watch and review any film you request of me before the end of next week.
Do you have a particular Japanese film you'd like me to review as part of Blogathon week? Let me know!
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