Archive for the ‘狂った一頁’ Category

A Page of Madness with The Observatory

Saturday, December 11th, 2010

I went to the National Museum of Singapore tonight to catch an incredible event – it was the screening of “A Page of Madness” (狂った一頁, or kuru’ta i’peiji), a Japanese silent film from 1926. The screening was accompanied by live music performed by The Observatory, one of Singapore’s coolest bands.

The film is based on a story by Kawabata Yasunari, the Nobel Prize-winning author, and is about a retired sailor who takes a job as a janitor to look after his wife, who was institutionalised after trying to drown their child. It takes the point of view of the insane at many moments, and you see all sorts of crazy antics. There were two climactic scenes in the film, one when the patients broke loose and began terrorizing the place, and another time when the sailor himself went berserk.

While the movie is difficult to follow, as there are no intercards for dialogue or context, it is full of all sorts of amazing images and visual effects, such as superimpositions, flashbacks, rapid montage, and complex camerawork, all to recreate the world of the insane. There is a beautiful female dancer, there is the sailor’s wife who is somehow elegant in her madness, there is a young boy, a young lady in her kimono, a middle-aged doctor who looks a bit constipated, a western doctor, a flapper who dances incessantly (although sometimes she lies on the floor and pretends to be a dog – barking mad), interesting-looking bearded and mustached men, and there is a trio of madmen who move in strange mechanical/kabuki gestures. There is also odd social commentary at the end – when the lunatics put on their masks, they become happy and normal again. I started my camera at two points where the film looked like it was getting interesting, and I was lucky – I caught some cool parts of the film with some great music.

I was fascinated with the “font” that was used to write the title and the names of the actors and other staff. It was nearly indecipherable. The “終” that you see at the end, as you see at the end of nearly all Japanese films, was made out of lights and very hard to recognise. Even the opening and closing credits were a great work of art.

If you can’t see a screening, the film is available online.

The venue was a mid-sized theatre, and I was lucky to find a front row seat, even though I was not early. I got to sit close to the band, which included two guitarists, a percussionist/drummer/bassist, and two people on electronics (one an iBook expert, another a black box knob-twister – her table, and the floor in front of the guitarists, was littered with pedals and boxes of all sorts). When the evening started, the lights went off, the band walked in dressed in black with their white kabuki masks on, and then low, ambient noise kicked in. After a minute or two the film started. All throughout, the music was odd and atmospheric, quiet and subdued, but often rising to exciting, chaotic crescendoes when the film called for it. The band recorded the gig, I hope that they release it as well. A DVD version of the film with The Observatory’s soundtrack should be released as a film.

Here are some pictures and video clips of the evening:

Pics:

Pre-show setup

Pre-show setup

狂った一頁  with The Observatory 1

狂った一頁  with The Observatory 1

狂った一頁  with The Observatory 2

狂った一頁  with The Observatory 2

狂った一頁  with The Observatory 3

狂った一頁  with The Observatory 3

Videos: