Directed by Teinosuke Kinugasa [Other horror films: N/A]
I’m a decently consistent guy, or at least I feel like I am. I’m not a fan of experimental films, and never really have been. Kurutta ippêji, better known as A Page of Madness, is certainly experimental, and despite perhaps being an important film, I find it a struggle to get into, and personally just can’t recommend whatsoever.
When it comes to silent films, I have a decent track record of enjoying many of them, and even the ones that are a bit light on traditional horror elements (such as Pikovaya dama), I can give a good shake. There are some experimental silent films I have struggled with – the two that come to mind are La chute de la maison Usher and Schatten – Eine nächtliche Halluzination. I could sort of get into Warning Shadows, because at least I could follow the story, but The Fall of the House of Usher wasn’t easy for me.
And unfortunately, this Japanese film is worse. Part of the problem is that the film doesn’t use intertitles. The aforementioned Warning Shadows didn’t either, but that story was easier to follow, whereas A Page of Madness, while somewhat simple in plot, just felt muddled and confused. To be sure, it was apparently not uncommon for Japanese silent films to eschew the use of intertitles (in Japan, there would have been live narration provided in the theaters by a benshi, or storyteller), but that doesn’t make modern-day consumption of this movie any easier.
Does the film occasionally have striking visuals and interesting use of avant-garde style? Very much so. Even more, Masuo Inoue gave what I imagine to be quite a good performance, despite the fact I didn’t really follow along with the story.
If I’m being honest, though, this was one of the hardest movies I’ve tried to sit through in the last couple of months. It’s perhaps not fair, but it’s true. A Page for Madness is only around an hour and ten minutes, but it felt like three hours, and when I say I almost dozed off at one point, I’m simply relaying facts, not trying to be cruel.
A Page for Madness is worth seeing if you want to see a classic piece of avant-garde, experimental cinema from Asia. I’ve always had a difficult time with experimental films, though – I despise Eraserhead, and always have – and though I’ve seen this Japanese film once and I don’t remember having that bad a time with it, this time around, I just couldn’t do it, fair or not.
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