A Page of Madness 

Aaron Gerow's Page of Madness

A Page of Madness: Cinema and Modernity in 1920s Japan (Center for Japanese Studies, The University of Michigan, 2008)

ISBN 9781929280513 (cloth), ISBN 9781929280520 (paper)

It's finally out! And here's the blurb:

"Kinugasa Teinosuke’s 1926 film, A Page of Madness (Kurutta ichipeiji), is celebrated as one of the masterpieces of silent cinema. It was an independently produced, experimental, avant-garde work from Japan whose brilliant use of cinematic technique was equal to if not superior to that of contemporary European cinema. Those studying Japan, focusing on the central involvement of such writers as Yokomitsu Riichi and the Nobel Prize winner Kawabata Yasunari, have seen it as a pillar of the close relationship in the Taisho era between film and artistic modernism, as well as a marker of the uniqueness of prewar Japanese film culture.

"But is this film really what it seems to be? Using meticulous research on the film’s production, distribution, exhibition, and reception, as well as close analysis of the film’s shooting script (which is not the script currently attributed to Kawabata) and shooting notes recently made available, Aaron Gerow draws a new picture of this complex work, one revealing a film divided between experiment and convention, modernism and melodrama, the image and the word, cinema and literature, conflicts that play out in the story and structure of the film and its context. These different versions of A Page of Madness were developed at the time in varying interpretations of a film fundamentally about differing perceptions and conflicting worlds, and ironically realized in the fact that the film that exists today is not the one originally released. Including a detailed analysis of the film and translations of contemporary reviews and shooting notes for scenes missing from the current print, Gerow’s book offers provocative insight into the fascinating film A Page of Madness was - and still is - and into the struggles over this work that tried to articulate the place of cinema in Japanese society and modernity."

CJS books have limited distribution, so look to purchase it either directly from the CJS or through Amazon . An e-book version is also available. If you are outside the USA, you may have to order it through CJS or through the American Amazon, though it seems that Maruzen is offering it in Japan. I posted the table of contents on my blog. 

Donald Richie has written a very kind review in the Japan Times.

Frieda Friedberg also praised it in Screening the Past.

Dennis Washburn has penned a quite thorough review for the Journal of Japanese Studies (v. 36 n. 2), concluding that "Gerow’s book is a model of scrupulous scholarship and commentary that may be usefully assigned in courses not simply for its content but as an example to students of how to write seriously and sensitively across temporal and cultural boundaries."

Alexander Jacoby has penned a long, very positive review for Midnight Eye

There was talk about releasing a DVD in Japan in 2009, but the recent news I have heard will push back any release into late 2010 at the earliest. Let's cross our fingers!

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