Kawaita hana (1964)
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Absolutely stunning movie! The perfect noir.
Masahiro Shinoda's Pale Flower is a gorgeously shot (and scored) yakuza noir set in and around gambling dens, which fits perfectly with its fatalistic themes. We follow Muraki, a mobster who just came out of prison and is trying to get his bearings in the shifting underworld. He killed a man because it was his turn to kill a man, and because it was that man's turn to be killed. In that absurd statement is the crux of the film. Muraki meets a mysterious young woman called Saeko, a nimble gambler who wants to every increasing stakes so she can feel alive, and the two of them, each in their own way, represent how brief our lives are, though you're within your rights to question whether their existential and nihilistic reactions to that realization are correct, or just self-destructive. Note that while the gambling monopolizes a good chunk of screen time, the game they play, perhaps enigmatic to Western eyes, is something Shinoda teaches visually, to the point where you can appreciate a good hand at least once. I still can't say it gave up all its mysteries, but it certainly didn't detract.
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In 6 official lists
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This movie ranks #70 in Kinema Junpo's Top 200 Japanese Films
This movie ranks #144 in Tom Vick's Asian Cinema: A Field Guide
This movie ranks #156 in Doubling the Canon
This movie ranks #380 in Roger Ebert's Great Movies
This movie ranks #646 in The Criterion Collection
This movie ranks #819 in TSPDT's 1,000 Noir Films