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

7.8
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 1,388 users  
Reviews: 9 user | 38 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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Title: Pale Flower (1964)

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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

 
cool as ice, but also on fire too...
31 August 2012 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

There was never a moment in the first two thirds (or three quarters, whatever the stretch of time) where I had any dislike for Pale Flower, far from it, I was entranced and involved in this world of back-room gambling parlors in Japan where men put down money they know more than likely they'll lose. But there was a moment at that point I mention where I fell in love with the film: our resident anti-hero Muraki (an incredible-if-only-for-his-presence Ryo Ikebe) is having a dream, only it's a fever dream, or a nightmare, or one of those, involving a girl, Saeko (the oddly pretty Mariko Kaga) who he is infatuated with (but doesn't really love exactly, it's hard to point what it is) and a strange half-Chinese drug-peddler, Yoh (a man who doesn't have a line in the whole film, far as I can tell, aside from possibly some creepy-stalking singing, which I'll get to later). The way the director Masahiro Shinoda has Muraki framed is out of the classic nightmare-scenarios - stuck in slow-motion, dark corridors and shadows where he peers in on the characters that stick in his mind in an inverse tint, and he can't take it.

I went back and watched just that scene twice, just to see how Shinoda framed those shots, where he and his DP chose to pull back with the camera. Throughout the film he and his cameraman have an intelligence to their noirish drama, even in the gambling scenes (which, frankly, I still don't totally understand, though this shouldn't be an issue for Japanese audiences so I let it slide), and it culminates with this dream scene. What made it stand out was that the filmmakers tried to not let us in TOO much into this Muraki, and hey, why not? He's an ex-con with three years in the pen for a murder that he is not sure why he did - or rather, he says it was a simple "him or me" survival thing, and doesn't dwell on it much - and drifts from one place to the next. Saeko does give him some sort of lift or interest in the game of gambling they go for, even as Saeko isn't good at it and has a kind of frightening need to have a RUSH for excitement. When they start to drive past 100 (or SHE does I should note) with another car in the middle of the night, there's little explanation, and less so for why she finds this hysterically funny when they're done.

But this dream does give us a small window into this man's twisted but empathetic soul. He does want things, or has things he doesn't want, which is this girl he has some care for to not end up with a man who, at one point, stalks him down an empty street at night as if a sinister cat (or a young Harry Lime) was prowling the streets. The plot, as much as it is in the film, doesn't fully kick into gear until the third act anyway as the truce between Yakuza gangs is split by a murder that needs avenging, which, as a sort of self-imposed fate by Muraki would have it, goes where you think it will. The real focus and power and entertainment in Pale Flower is how Shinoda looks at these characters, the rough side that Muraki has just embedded in him, and what humanity (if any) is left in him. This is hard-boiled, existential noir with some experimental beats; it doesn't go quite as far as Branded to Kill, for example, but coming a few years before it is groundbreaking in its small ways.

It feels hyper-realistic in an exciting way: a sudden attack at a bowling alley is shocking for how it just seems to be part of the way of things at a bowling alley with a high-profile yakuza like Muraki (more to do with how its shot, that it's one long shot this happens in before the angle finally changes as the assassin is taken away - this too has a twist with the young upstart looking up to Muraki, but this is a supporting story). This is about a man who resides in the shadows since its what he knows best, and is not a total shut-out from his bosses, but is so cold as to seem to more 'normal' gangsters as impenetrable. Indeed it speaks to what Shinoda was going for that he cast Ikebe, who wasn't keen on learning a ton of lines, for his walk(!) Add to that a helluva dame in Saeko with a 'big' performance by Kaga mostly in her eyes, and the strange not-quite-but-yes adversary of Fujiki's Yoh, and you got a gritty noir that has the daring to not just be a B-thriller. Look no further than the climax, which aspires to operatic heights long before HK thriller went for all that jazz, and you get the idea.

To put it another way, this is like what I'd imagine, if he saw it, one of a handful of films the author Donald Westlake would be jealous he didn't get to write.


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