Kurutta Ippeiji – A Page of Madness

Curated by Marcel Schwierin.

This masterpiece of early experimental film fiction tells the story of a married couple. The woman drowns her child in a moment of madness and lands in a psychiatric clinic, quickly followed by her husband, who hopes thus to be able to free her. Yet both become too institutionalised to attempt an escape. Kinugasa narrates the film as if he too is delirious, repeatedly scrambling the plot’s logic. Multi-exposures and rapid montage sequences leave the viewer as bewildered as the film's protagonists. Yasunari Kawabata – who was later awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature and, like Kinugasa, a member of the avant-garde group Shinkankakuha – co-wrote the screenplay. In 1926 when Kinugasa (then aged 30), made and personally funded A Page of Madness, he was already an experienced director, familiar with French, Soviet and German avant-garde cinema. Yet the radicalism of Kinugasa’s visual language supersedes that of his famous predecessors – in his final cut, he even scrapped the intertitles. The film (like almost all other Japanese films of the 1920s) was long believed to have been lost. It was only in 1971 that Kinugasa discovered a copy in his garden shed, from which he produced a slightly shorter sound version that is normally shown at the rate of 24 frames per second. For Fear Has Big Eyes we will show the film at the original speed of 18 frames per second, and with live musical accompaniment. Furthermore we intend to revive the Japanese tradition of the ‘benshi’ or narrator: actor Marold Langer-Philippsen will present a live German commentary based on original texts by a benshi who accompanied A Page of Madness in the 1920s.

Marcel Schwierin

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Teinosuke Kinugasa
(1896-1982) was a pioneer of Japanese cinema. He began his film career as an ‘onnagata’, a traditional male player of female roles, before going on to direct his first film in 1922, followed by over one hundred more. In 1954 his Gate of Hell (Jigokumon, 1953) won the Grand Prix at Cannes and the Oscar for Best Foreign Film.