The title A Page of Madness can also be translated from the original Japanese to mean something more like “A Page Out of Order.” This secondary meaning of the title points to the non-linear approach to narrative the film employs. Based on a treatment written by Nobel Prize winning novelist Yasunari Kawabata, A Page of Madness is ostensibly a simple tale about an ex-sailor who takes a job as a janitor in a psychiatric hospital in order to be close to his wife. However—inspired in part by the films of Abel Gance, German Expressionist masterpieces like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligiari, Dadism, and Benraku puppetry—director Teinosuke Kinugasa’s film is anything but simple.
Having just recently watched Masaaki Yuasa’s 2004 animated fever dream Mind Game, I can’t help but feel the similarities between that film and A Page of Madness—formal dissolution of time and space, a singular and surprising narrative logic, a patchwork of psychic snapshots aimed at the subconscious rather than the overtly emotional. In the case of A Page of Madness, in its traditional presentation, the film would have been accompanied by a narrator (a benshi) who would create dialog and give backstory as the film screened. We don’t have a benshi narrator, but we do have Alloy Orchestra with their new and expressive score to guide us through this avant-garde tour de force. (Keisha Nicole Knight)
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