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February 2009, Week 4


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Aaron Gerow <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Tue, 24 Feb 2009 15:21:06 -0500
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Forgive the cross-posting:

A Page of Madness: Cinema and Modernity in 1920s Japan

by Aaron Gerow

Michigan Monograph Series in Japanese Studies, No. 64
x + 130 pp., 2008, 22 illustrations
ISBN 978-1-929280-51-3, cloth, $50.00
ISBN 978-1-929280-52-0, paper, $22.00

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 Taishō 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 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.

Aaron Gerow is assistant professor of Japanese cinema at Yale
University and has published widely in a variety of languages on
early, wartime, and recent Japanese film and culture. He is the author
of Kitano Takeshi (BFI, 2007) and a forthcoming book on Taishō film
culture from the University of California Press, as well as the co-
author of Research Guide to Japanese Film Studies with Mark Nornes
(Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan, 2009).

Aaron Gerow
Assistant Professor
Film Studies Program/East Asian Languages and Literatures
Yale University
53 Wall Street, Room 316
PO Box 208363
New Haven, CT 06520-8363
Phone: 1-203-432-7082
Fax: 1-203-432-6764
e-mail: [log in to unmask]

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