Sunday, October 16, 2016

A Page of Madness

This week's Silent Sunday Nights movie is also a TCM Import, although there's going to be a real Import following: A Page of Madness, tonight at midnight.

This one is really hard to rate. The movie contains a lot of images that are a bit jarring, until we learn that we're watching a mental institution. One of the women has a husband who is working at the institution as a janitor. And the two of them have a daughter who wants to get married. It turns out that the man is working there because he's trying to get his wife out of the institution. But does she really want to leave?

It's a hard movie to follow, in part because of the subject matter; I get the impression that the director wanted audiences to feel a bit uncomfortable and confused watching. But the bigger problem is that this is a Japanese silent movie. The tradition in Japan, as I mentioned earlier this year, was to have somebody called a benshi explaining what was going on up on screen. A benshi, presumably, would be explaining things that in western silent films would have been explained by intertitles, and explaining them while the action was going on up on the screen. And indeed, A Page of Madness is lacking in intertitles. With a benshi around, it would probably be less difficult to figure out what's going on in this movie. But as is, it's a very frustrating watch.

It probably doesn't help either that the movie was considered lost for decades and was only found again in the early 1970s, and is thought to have some material missing. I don't know how much any missing material (other than that benshi) would have helped explain the plot, however. Watch and judge for yourself.

As far as I can tell, A Page of Madness hasn't received a DVD release, so you'll have to catch the TCM showing.

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