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Pale Flower (1964)
"Kawaita hana" (original title)

Not Rated  |   |  Crime, Thriller  |  1 March 1964 (Japan)
7.8
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 1,467 users  
Reviews: 10 user | 40 critic

Muraki, a hardboiled Yakuza gangster, has just been released from prison after serving a sentence for murder. Revisiting his old gambling haunts, he meets Saeko, a striking young ... See full summary »

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(based on the novel by), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Ryô Ikebe ...
Muraki
Mariko Kaga ...
Saeko
Takashi Fujiki ...
Yoh
Naoki Sugiura ...
Aikawa
Shin'ichirô Mikami ...
Reiji
Isao Sasaki ...
Jiro
Koji Nakahara ...
Tamaki
Chisako Hara ...
Yakuza's Lover
Seiji Miyaguchi ...
Gang leader
Eijirô Tôno ...
Gang Leader
Mikizo Hirata ...
Mizuguchi
Reizaburô Yamamoto
Kyû Sazanka ...
Imai
Hideo Kidokoro
Akio Tanaka ...
Patron
Edit

Storyline

Muraki, a hardboiled Yakuza gangster, has just been released from prison after serving a sentence for murder. Revisiting his old gambling haunts, he meets Saeko, a striking young upper-class woman who is out seeking thrills, and whose presence adds spice to the staid masculine underworld rituals. Muraki becomes her mentor while simultaneously coping with the shifts of power that have affected the gangs while he was interred. When he notices a rogue, drug-addicted young punk hanging around the gambling dens, he realizes that Saeko's insatiable lust for intense pleasures may be leading her to self-destruction. Written by goblinhairedguy

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

murder | yakuza | revenge | rain | church | See All (17) »

Genres:

Crime | Thriller

Certificate:

Not Rated

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

1 March 1964 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Fiore secco  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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User Reviews

 
Lolita / Elegant Japanese noir
21 November 2013 | by (garbanzo) – See all my reviews

Muraki is a middle aged yakuza fresh out of jail for murder. Played to perfection by Ryô Ikebe, he's quiet, disciplined, smokes his cigarettes with style, sports a smart suit and a Johnny Bravo haircut. When a woman from a past affair (Chisako Hara) desperately pleads for his love, he shows no interest in yielding. If anything, he seems almost embarrassed by her need of affection. His mind is only preoccupied by a sense of duty toward his gang and some casual betting. Enter Saeko (Mariko Kaga), a beautiful, young girl with the face of a doll and big, daring eyes. She has the look of someone who has nothing to lose. A wealthy, spoiled brat, a nihilist bored with life, she kills time by gambling away her money. Muraki is immediately drawn to her. At first, he's flattered by her attention, but he soon discovers he's too decent and safe for her, not quite extreme or dangerous enough. His pride is wounded, yet he becomes addicted to her youthful foolishness and decadence. Doom is around the corner.

Everything about this film is superbly elegant: the acting, the art direction and black-and-white photography, the avant-garde music composed by Toru Takemitsu, the man responsible for the soundtrack of any number of Japanese classics, including Teshigahara's 'Woman in the Dunes', Kurosawa's 'Ran' and Imamura's 'Black Rain'. Directed by Masahiro Shinoda, 'Pale Flower' belongs in the pantheon of great films noirs alongside the likes of 'The Big Sleep' and 'The Postman Always Rings Twice'.

***** Spoilers *****

Part of what's most interesting about the relationship between Muraki and Saeko is that it is so Platonic. There's no sign of sexual contact between them. Muraki wants her physically, yet fails to have her. It's a kind of impotence that he experiences. In turn, he becomes more of a protective father figure. After all, Muraki's probably over twice her age. (When they made the film, the actor was 47 and the actress 21.) So there's a sexual tension, an Electra complex (like the Oedipus complex, with the male and female roles reversed). But she saves herself for Yoh, a younger, wilder, more exotic yakuza and this drives Muraki crazy. (This reminds me of Nabokov's 'Lolita', published only a few years earlier.) By the end, a despondent Muraki volunteers to take down the boss of a rival gang, knowing well that this will put him back in prison. But he accepts to do it because he hopes it will excite and impress Saeko. He is sacrificing himself for her pleasure. When he thrusts his knife into the body of his victim at the restaurant, he's projecting onto the act of murder the violence of his frustrated desire for her. Fascinated, she watches from a distance. However, we later learn that Yoh has killed her in an act of passion. So it is Yoh who actually penetrates her with a knife (obviously, a phallic symbol). Muraki has been one-upped again. He has come up with a concept that Yoh ultimately takes to the next level. Saeko's relationship with Muraki remains ideal, while with Yoh it is carnal.

Similarly, Muraki is tormented by the prospect of Saeko doing drugs with Yoh, partly because he wants to protect her as a father figure, but also because that could involve Yoh penetrating her with a needle (another phallic symbol).


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