Page of Madness

One of the most startling and striking silent films from Japan, PAGE OF MADNESS was rediscovered by director Teinosuke Kinugasa in his storeroom in the early 1970s and made available for re-release. It follows an elderly man who voluntarily works at odd jobs in a lunatic asylum where his wife is confined, having drowned her baby son in a fit of madness many years earlier. He hopes one day to set her free.

"The film is a remarkable work of concentrated emotional power, seeking to understand the nature of insanity while offering a staright narrative (the wife's story) in flashback," observed The Faber Companion to Foreign Film.

Relying on its images, the film uses no inter-titles, displaying breathtaking technical virtuosity: the director employs every available camera device, in the style of German Expressionism, which was unknown to him at the time. "A masterpiece of imagination and control, it has not dated in 70 -odd years," Faber exclaims.

Phillip Johnston's original score for "Page of Madness" was premiered on July 9th and 10th, 1998, at the The Walter Reade Theater, in Lincoln Center, NYC. It was commissioned by The Film Society of Lincoln Center and performed by The Transparent Quartet. It has subsequently been performed at Duke University in Durham, NC, at Time & Space, Ltd. in Hudson, New York, and at M.I.T.'s Killian Hall in Boston, Massachusetts.

Recently, it was performed with a new Australian ensemble, featuring Lloyd Swanton, bass, Chris Abrahams, piano, and Daryl Pratt, vibraphone, at the 2008 Sydney Film Festival.

Some thoughts on making contemporary scores for silent films

Email Phillip Johnston.
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