For the second time since spring break, renowned Japanese benshi, Ichiro Kataoka, joined us in Ann Arbor for a special performance of a Japanese silent film, this time the avant-garde film Page of Madness. Page of Madness revolves around man who works as a janitor at an asylum to be near his wife who is a patient there. With only 10 of these benshi, traditional narrators of Japanese silent films, left in the world this is a true treat. I had been absolutely stunned by Kataoka’s skill the first time I saw him perform alongside the silent gangster film Dragnet Girl, and was only left more impressed by talent and professionalism this time around. Just like last time, whenever I could tear myself away from what was happening on screen, it was fascinating just to watch him perform, his face and body language changing and emoting along with his voice.
The music was done wonderfully by the trio Little Bang Theory. I was constantly in awe by their performance, they didn’t’ seem to be working off any sheet music but didn’t miss a single note. The soundtrack matched perfectly with the visuals, both haunting and frenzied, complementing the overall tone of the film. I was also intrigued by the vast array of instruments ranging from quite traditional to ones I had never seen before. What I found the most amusing were the small wind up toys, similar to the kind you might find in an antique shop, that were used throughout the movie. Each member of the band was in charge of a variety of different instruments and noisemakers and would switch back and forth as needed, seamlessly keeping the live soundtrack going as they did so. Just watching them was worth the price of admission itself.
What surprised my friends and I was how brilliantly the story held our attention, despite having absolutely no english subtitles or translation for the entire 60 minute run. None of us understood more than a handful of words in Japanese. We credit this to the talent of all the performers, for providing inspiring and haunting performances that perfectly complimented the film itself, along with the film’s rich visuals and intriguing story.
When the show was finally over, the performers took a bow to a loud roar of applause and a standing ovation by many. As my friends and I walked back to our dorm we were left in a state of shock and admiration, talking about the experience and our different interpretations of the movie the entire walk back.
While the film festival is over, I encourage you to see what different events are coming up in the Michigan theater, as well as start making plans for next year’s film festival! Events like these, that combine film with live performance are not one to miss!