Christian Ryan’s review published on Letterboxd:
Bit of a waste of time, this.
Without a proper benshi to narrate what the hell is going on, the viewer’s left with a jumbled mess of starkly beautiful, but largely incoherent images. Did you know that the bearded inmate was bowing to the janitor at the end because it’s a traditional gesture of respect for a freshly-minted son-in-law to show his wife’s father? The hell you did.
Kinugasa wasn’t going for “Lynchian” you toffee-nosed twat; he was trying to tell a (somewhat) accessible, heartbreaking story of neglected love, of regret and penance. Without the accompanying narration (or even intertitles!), modern audiences are left grappling in the dark, forced to attach their own self-infatuated exegesis to the material. (Wikipedia is a lot of things, but an engaging storyteller it is not.)
I have no doubt, with the ESSENTIAL narration, A Page of Madness is a five-star masterpiece, but in its current, fractured form, it’s a frustratingly oblique, unnecessarily challenging and incomplete experience.
Remember when you were a kid and you finally got that speeder bike you’d been dying for, but then you opened up the box to find that the scout trooper and ewok pictured on the cover weren’t actually included? What the hell, Kenner?! Is the speeder bike supposed to fly itself?!
Watching this movie without narration is the adult version of that.
(Administered, in celluloid capsule form, by the COLLAB)