A Page of Madness ★★★★½

One of the landmarks of silent cinema, and like Joan of Arc, seems to combine all the various silent film techniques from Germany, Russia, France, and the United States into one final hurrah of silent cinema. Vlada Petric notes in his 1983 article in Film Criticism that it was still mostly off the radar of even the most scholarly studies of Japanese cinema (even by Noel Burch’s famous study). It’s certainly a hard film to grasp onto plot-wise, and there are disagreements to whether the benshi script is lost, or it was meant originally to be played completely silent as Kinugasa stated when the print resurfaced in the 1970s. Re-watching it, I found it surprisingly easy to follow the narrative this second time around, and Kinugasa makes clear distinctions between what is fiction and what is reality. We watch the beautiful ballet dancer spinning around and around, until the camera suddenly pulls out to reveal the bars, and it’s clear what the director has communicated. The film takes us through the emotional depths of the central relationship, which makes some of the most simple images, such as the wife starring with an almost blank face at her husband, some of the most breathtaking in the film, more than its intensely surreal images. By the end, everyone dons masks, a way to hide their madness behind their performances, all so the husband can join in. It’s still a remarkable picture and way overdue for a proper release, which like Dreyer’s work, could be the key to having it become part of the silent cinema canon instead of an Eastern curiosity

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