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Review: A Page of Madness

Why wasn’t I notified that A Page of Madness is currently streaming on Prime Video? This essential work of Japanese silent cinema has been one of my personal Holy Grails ever since I read about it in college—and it’s been right under my nose, available to rent for a measly three bucks? Amazon really needs advertise its niche content more aggressively!

In any case, the film certainly lives up to its reputation. While it owes an obvious stylistic debt to German Expressionism (for its deliberately artificial, asymmetrical set design) and Soviet Montage (for its associative editing), its craftsmanship never feels derivative; director Teinosuke Kinugasa (best known in the West for Gate of Hell) merely dissects and remixes these familiar techniques and philosophies in order to produce bold new flavors. The lack of concrete narrative context (which would have been provided by a live narrator back in the day) further enriches the hypnotic, hallucinatory, nightmarish atmosphere of the surreal visuals, forcing the viewer to actively participate in assembling the shattered fragments of the minimalistic “plot.”

The result is a resoundingly triumphant avant-garde experiment—a relentless assault on the psyche governed by sensation rather than conventional “logic.” A Page of Madness is cryptic, impenetrable, and thematically dense—as all great art should be.

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