Thursday 18 July 2013

Pale Flower [1964]

Some call it a jewel among the post-noirs that Japanese filmmakers dabbled in, while others qualify it as the finest yakuza film ever made; irrespective of what hyperboles one throws at it, Masahiro Shinoda’s Pale Flower was indeed an exquisitely made film drenched in bleak fatalism, palpable existential angst and rippling melancholia. With Tokyo’s seedy and crime-ridden underbelly providing the perfect backdrop, the director concocted a fleeting and fascinating love story between two self-destructive characters whose lives lay well outside the conventional spectra. Fresh out of the prison, where he spent three years for murdering a member of the rival gang, Muraki (Ryo Ikebe) heads straight to an underground gambling joint. And there, amidst the drone-like voice of the man rolling the dice, he spots a pretty young girl (Mariko Kaga) recklessly throwing her money away. And thus begins a strangely compelling liaison between the laconic, world-weary and impassive gangster and the enigmatic, effervescing, alluring girl who loves losing large amounts of cash in high-stakes gambling and racing her sleek convertible on the empty night streets. As any noir aficionado would guess without looking any further, things cannot and will not end on a happy note for either as they both slide ever further towards a bad ending. The fact that we hardly get to know anything about these two outsiders apart the few moments they share worked excellently for the film’s cynicism-laden romanticism. The dazzling B/W photography of dark alleys, rain-washed roads and cramped interiors marvelous accentuated the moody atmosphere and complemented the murky environs, while the minimally used score was effective as well.

Director: Masahiro Shinoda
Genre: Crime Drama/Post-Noir/Romantic Noir/Gangster Film
Language: Japanese
Country: Japan


Sam Juliano said...

A good film for sure, but not a great one. I must see it again though, as your exceptionally observant review has me thinking on it again.

Shubhajit said...

Well, I liked the film considerably on account of its marvelous infusion of existential crises into the film noir template, and not to forget its terrific depiction of the seedier sides of Tokyo. Would love to know your reaction as & when you revisit this Shinoda gem.