IMDb > Pale Flower (1964)

Pale Flower (1964) More at IMDbPro »Kawaita hana (original title)

Pale Flower -- In this cool, seductive jewel of the Japanese New Wave, a yakuza, fresh out of prison, becomes entangled with a beautiful and enigmatic gambling addict; what at first seems a redemptive relationship ends up leading him further down the criminal path.


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Shintarô Ishihara (based on the novel by)
Masaru Baba (screenplay) ...
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Release Date:
1 March 1964 (Japan) See more »
A gangster gets released from prison and has to cope with the recent shifts of power between the gangs, while taking care of a thrill-seeking young woman, who got in bad company while gambling. Full summary » | Add synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
(2 articles)
Blu-Ray Review: Subtle Beauty of Somber ‘Pale Flower’
 (From 24 May 2011, 8:33 AM, PDT)

Ryo Ikebe, 1918 - 2010
 (From MUBI. 13 October 2010, 9:48 AM, PDT)

User Reviews:
Lolita / Elegant Japanese noir See more (13 total) »


  (in credits order)

Directed by
Masahiro Shinoda 
Writing credits
Shintarô Ishihara (based on the novel by)

Masaru Baba (screenplay) &
Masahiro Shinoda (screenplay)

Produced by
Masayuki Nakajima .... assistant producer
Toshio Shimizu .... assistant producer
Masao Shirai .... producer
Shigeru Wakatsuki .... producer
Original Music by
Yûji Takahashi 
Tôru Takemitsu 
Cinematography by
Masao Kosugi 
Film Editing by
Yoshi Sugihara 
Art Direction by
Shigemasa Toda 
Set Decoration by
Hatsuo Kojima 
Makeup Department
Yoshiko Nawa .... hair stylist
Production Management
Hideo Kishida .... executive in charge of production
Masashi Ueno .... production supervisor
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Ichirô Mizunuma .... first assistant director
Nariyuki Yamane .... assistant director
Gô Yoshida .... assistant director
Art Department
Saburo Abe .... assistant art director
Sound Department
Hideo Nishizaki .... sound
Camera and Electrical Department
Akira Aomatsu .... gaffer
Takao Kajihara .... still photographer
Noboru Shiiba .... lighting technician
Akio Shinozaki .... assistant camera
Atsuyuki Yagi .... lighting technician

Production CompaniesDistributors

Additional Details

Also Known As:
"Kawaita hana" - Japan (original title)
See more »
96 min
Aspect Ratio:
2.35 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:

Did You Know?

The release of this film, originally scheduled for 1963, was held up for nearly a year. Explanations for the delay vary. The movie's co-scenarist, Masaru Baba, apparently complained to the studio, Shochiku, that director Masahiro Shinoda had emphasized visual style at the expense of his more detailed script. Another explanation of the delay is that Japanese authorities were made uncomfortable by the movie's scenes of high-stakes (and illegal) gambling using "flower cards," which were filmed in great detail and in a way that they felt glorified this activity.See more »


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4 out of 5 people found the following review useful.
Lolita / Elegant Japanese noir, 21 November 2013
Author: birthdaynoodle from garbanzo

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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