A Page of Madness
One might free the mad wife from her cell, if she wished to go, one can at least keep the place clean and dignified.
An honest, clean film on the subject (cp. Wiseman’s Titicut Follies), described by Time Out Film Guide as “radical and challenging”.
The poetry of the piece is the character of the madness, an incident with the baby at the water, a final fit at the daughter’s wedding.
Some say there was benshi, some say there wasn’t. Some say Kinugasa knew The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, some say he didn’t, it figures as a joke in the film.
A tale of the Yoshiwara
One of the greatest magicians of the cinema, one of the greatest silent films, in a rigorous technique and style native to Losey, for example (Secret Ceremony, Boom).
Dark street, man runs and falls, bleeding, he inspects the scene alertly, enters room, crawls in darkness, lights lamp. “The Sister”. “The Brother”. Did he close the door? She’ll see, no, someone enters, climbs the stairs. “The Landlord”.
Crossroads, the title.
“No matter what anyone says, the woman is mine” (cf. Thompson’s Brotherly Love, or Country Matters).
“The Woman at the Archery Range”.
An extraordinary review in the New York Times (where it was Slums of Tokyo) finds “the virtue of sincerity but its tempo is too heavy. Previous Japanese films have been more successful than this. It may be that one is so accustomed to seeing the Japanese portrayed in a frame of cherry blossoms or in stilted legendary poses that genuine reactions having to do with murder, love or hate seem foreign to the Nipponese” (it played the Fifty-Fifth Street Playhouse with Parrott’s Blotto and The Golden Kimono, “a talking Japanese film”).
Time Out’s version of British understatement is “certainly more than an archive curiosity” (as Crossways).
“The Constable” (more and more like one of Kobo Abe’s plays). “The Madam”. As if to compensate for the Times’ complaint, one sees it now a little too fast for its own good, more than likely. “Last Night’s Rival in the Fight” (a reminder also of Sternberg’s The Salvation Hunters, so categorical).
Gate of Hell
Kinugasa’s masterpiece begins with Yoshitoshi perfectly rendered and continues throughout in oft-remarked ukiyo-e for the cinema.
A coup d’état that fails is the main image, examined in the love conceived by a samurai of lesser rank for a lady-in-waiting he does not know at first is married to a rival.
After opening in the heat of the moment as described, Kinugasa brings the infinite number of considerations in the play to bear upon his cinematography, which becomes increasingly complex, varied and intricate, to leave nothing unexpressed.
Thematically, the film is related to Kurosawa’s Sanshiro Sugata on a samurai’s conversion.
Yushima no shiraume
The title is elsewhere given as Fukeizu yushimano hakubai, which evidently refers to the Plum Blossom Festival at Yushima, or perhaps these are two different films.
Early days of a career, young scholar, cp. Jūjiro.
Stieglitz knows the precise angle at which to grasp an entire building at once architectonically, this ability is highly prized by Kinugasa for his nineteenth-century city views, part of a general sense in which ukiyo-e can be understood cinematographically in monochrome.
A stately, sedate style, with all the activity confined to the pictorial lines in plenty, a rare effect in the cinema.
A pickpocket hard beset conceals a poke in a geisha’s obi, than which no more elegant formulation exists.
The flags of all the nations and a brass band, to begin with.
Question of a lexicon. Camille and Butterfly share the sound stage with the folly of men and much learning.
The magical powers to which the title refers include the flaying of a rat alive and the knotting of a snake, by application of prayer beads. Ten years of study and meditation are required for this.
The historical monk Dōkyō raises the Empress from the sickbed that is her court, governed by a corrupt minister who has in his sway the Prince her son.
The supreme elegance is to have this do-gooder fall in love and lose his magic.
As Beckett says,
sitôt sorti de l’ermitage