A Page of Madness essay
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Summary of A War of Utter Rebellion: Kinugasa's "Page of Madness" and the Japanese Avant-Garde of the 1920s
Japan at the beginning of the 20th century was an isolated island far away from the Western world and its influences. Many Japanese artists and film directors were inspired by the Japanese culture. The article discusses the inspiration, the style and the impact of behind Kinugasa's A Page of Madness.
James Peterson, author of A War of Utter Rebellion: Kinugasa's "Page of Madness" and the Japanese Avant-Garde of the 1920s, states that Noel Burch considered a relation between the Western experimental film making and Kinugasa's A Page of Madness. By time Japanese filmmakers were introduced to Western representation, the Western world was shifted away from it. Kinugasa was devoted to the traditions of Japan (1989, p36).
Writers and other artists experimented with their own ideas in the 1920s. According to the author Kinugasa met a group of young and inspiring writes, ("[…] a sympathetic critic named the group the Shinkankaku school"), such as Yokomitsu Riichi and Kawabata Yasunar (Peterson, 1989).
Kinugasa built a strong relationship with the group, because as Peterson says "the Shinkankaku group seemed to be the Japanese representative of the whole spectrum of European modernism."(1989, p38) Many art movements were born during the avant-garde. They pushed its boundaries further exploring new things. As Peterson mentions The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) fascinated the Japanese avant-garde. (1989, p38) Kawabata who wrote the scenario of A Page of Madness, was slightly inspired by the film.
Both story is very simple, but the Japanese movie is more complex. It takes place in an asylum, where we meet a former sailor, who became the janitor, just to stay close to his insane wife. Their past is troubled (sailor abandoned his family, mysterious downing of one their child) and the wife illness makes it worse with no resolutions for the characters.
According to Kinugasa, Peterson says, "Its story was less important than technical experimentation: the tracking shots, close-ups, rapid montage, flash-backs, dissolves, irises, etc. In this film I used almost every avant-garde technique."(1989, p49) On the other hand Petric argues in the text that "(…) A Page of Madness is a masterpiece of film art that does not use techniques for their own sake, we would have to show that each one is carefully motivated by the story."(1989, p49)
Kinugasa was an innovator of Japanese avant-garde, mostly because he was inspired by exceptional artists around him which led to the birth of A Page of Madness.
Peterson, J. (1989) A War of Utter Rebellion: Kinugasa's "Page of Madness" and the Japanese Avant-Garde of the1920s. Cinema Journal. [Online] Vol. 29, No. 1. p36-53. Available from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1225300 [Accessed: 20/10/2014 14:12]
History of Cinema