A Page of Madness / Grass Labyrinth

December 15, 2023
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FilmTaisho Roman past event

This screening features two films. Grass Labyrinth also screens separately on December 9.

A Page of Madness
Kurutta Ichipeiji

Teinosuke Kinugasa’s monumental A Page of Madness has been hailed as one of the great works of the silent era, an independent film produced in the final year of Taisho that channels avant-garde experimentalism and modernism in its bold cinematic form. In part inspired by Kinugasa’s visit to a mental hospital and an encounter with Emperor Yoshihito, A Page of Madness tells the story of a repentant man who takes on the job of an asylum custodian to take care of his ill wife. With ties to the Shinkankaku (New Impressionist) School—including the involvement of novelist Yasunari Kawabata—Kinugasa’s radical film omits intertitles, utilizing rapid montages and oblique storytelling to create a dizzying masterwork that occupies the uninhibited emotions of its protagonists. Praised in a contemporaneous Kinema Junpo review as “the first filmlike film born in Japan,” Kinugasa’s feature was lost for decades until a nitrate print was miraculously found in the filmmaker’s storehouse in 1971. Revived in the 1970s with a reworked “New Sound” version, the film’s rediscovery was a revelation.

Dir. Teinosuke Kinugasa, 1926, 59 min. DCP, b&w, 70s re-release “New Sound” version. With Masao Inoue, Yoshie Nakagawa and Ayako Iijima. Story by Yasunari Kawabata.

Grass Labyrinth
Kusa Meikyu

Imported 35mm Print. Shuji Terayama’s haunting childhood melancholia finds young Akira deep within reminiscences of his youth, searching for the forgotten verses of a lullaby his mother once sang to him. Originally released as part of the three-film erotic omnibus Private Collections (featuring the work of Walerian Borowcyzk and Just Jaeckin), Terayama’s short adapts famed writer Kyoka Izumi’s story into garish psychosexual hysteria with suitably oedipal undertones—resulting in a metaphysical journey that emboldens the traumas of adolescence to take on new forms. Akira’s labyrinthine voyage resurfaces past figures and memories—from a tryst with a powder-faced nymphomaniac to the shifting threads of his mother’s weaving loom. A transient wanderer lost within his subconscious, Akira inevitably draws closer to childhood’s end in his ceaseless quest for the lyrics of a lilting melody.

Dir. Shuji Terayama, 1979, 35mm, 40 min., color, in Japanese with English subtitles. With Takeshi Wakamatsu, Hiroshi Mikami.

Print courtesy of The Japan Foundation.

Part of Taisho Roman: Fever Dreams of the Great Rectitude
December 9—16, 2023

Taisho Roman offers transgressive visions of Japan’s own belle epoque, featuring films from some of Japan’s most radical and outré filmmakers.

Grass Labyrinth © 1979 Les Films du Jeudi-Toei

Special Thanks to Bret Berg (AGFA); Laurence Braunberger & Frédérique Ros (Films du Jeudi); Mako Fukata; Beth Rennie (George Eastman Museum); Shun Inoue & Akinaru Rokkaku (Japan Foundation); Daniel Joseph; Carl Morano (Media Blasters); Rikako Kosugiyama & Jo Osawa (National Film Archive of Japan); Shuji Shibata, producer of Dogra Magra.

Japan Society programs are made possible by leadership support from Booth Ferris Foundation, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature. Film programs are generously supported by ORIX Corporation USA, public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and Yen Press. Endowment support is provided by the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Endowment Fund and The John and Miyoko Davey Endowment Fund. Additional season support is provided by The Globus Family, David Toberisky, and Friends of Film. Transportation assistance is provided by Japan Airlines, the official Japanese airline sponsor of Japan Society Film. Housing assistance is provided by the Kitano Hotel, the official hotel sponsor of Japan Society Film.

  • Friday, December 15, 2023
  • 6:00 pm
  • In-Person Event
  • Reserved Tickets
  • $16 Nonmembers
  • $12 Members
  • $14 Seniors/Students
  • $14 Person with Disability

December 9 (6 pm)

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December 15 (9 pm)

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