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Louis Mazzini's avatar

Louis Mazzini

Absolutely stunning movie! The perfect noir.
6 years 8 months ago
Buksemannen's avatar

Buksemannen

Beautifully shot!
5 years 6 months ago
K.'s avatar

K.

"Pale Flower" was made during Shinoda's Shichiku period, but marked his transition into a creative visionary, and furthered his alienation from the studio. Originally produced in 1963, the film was shelved for nearly a year over what has been said to be a creative dispute between Shinoda and co-writer Masaru Baba, as well as because the studio executives feared it glorified illegal gambling. This alone is enough to spark interest in the film.

On surface level, and please note: spoilers ahead, we're introduced with a rather simple narrative. Or so it seems. But at heart this is not really a film about the yakuza, It's a film about two characters living in that world. And here's where it gets complex. I've often heard the protagonist Muraki referred to as a nihilist, but that couldn't be further misread. This is rather a man embodying a fading Japan trying to latch on to the tradition of honor that he has only found the remaining threads of in the underworld of the yakuza, but has in the process become numbed.

Now once you understand who and what his character is you see that this is not a film about gambling in the literal sense either, but rather however it takes on a symbolic role, a stand in for modern society. In this changing world life has lost touch with any code of belief, it has merely become a game, and in this game the higher the stakes the higher the thrills. Thus Muraki is not himself a nihilist but the nihilism is entrapping him and he must take action against it.

It's here that we now have parallels with "Taxi Driver". In "Pale Flower" Muraki is fresh out of prison, while Travis Bickle is fresh from Vietnam. Both are in enclosed within themselves, surrounded by a world they don't fit into. And where Travis in "Taxi Driver" sees a way to reach out through Iris (Jodie Foster), Muraki sees his way through Saeko.

So here we have the true nature of the film. While Muraki embodies traditional Japan, Saeko, a young woman with an insatiable drive for pleasure and excitement, comes to embody modern westernized Japan, and in this context their relationship takes on the form of a profound and tragic social analysis of Japan. In other words what's happening here is he's watching her/Japan throw itself away to western materialism. But, having become imprisoned by a world he no longer understands he doesn't know how to intervene. And we see just this in one of the greatest scenes in the film, Muraki's dream following Saeko telling him of her shooting heroin.

Now he knows she'll slip away if he doesn't act soon. But how to act is the question. What we come back to is Japan - the old and the new. He's come to see that his way of life is of the past, or maybe it was just a façade all along, so he severs his ties, including her, and concludes by going down with it. But there’s more to it than that. What we really witness here is self sacrifice, taking, and I say this because it’s no longer about honor, a sin upon himself to try and awaken her to reality by giving her a taste of death. He never could find the words for her, so finally he tries to say to her through an action what he never could in words, and that’s to flee out of this dark fatalistic wonderland that eats you away.

But like the ways of his Japan he reacts rashly and this brings us to the tragedy of the film, and that is that it does eat them both away, and symbolically that Japan has been eaten away. The pale flower has withered.
3 months ago
Siskoid's avatar

Siskoid

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.
6 months ago
SeanMX12's avatar

SeanMX12

Thank you Roger Ebert. When I checked this 8 months ago, it had 35 checks. This will definitely get this classic more recognition.
8 years 6 months ago
Gershwin's avatar

Gershwin

Roger Ebert just added this film to his Great Movies.
8 years 7 months ago
SeanMX12's avatar

SeanMX12

If you have netflix, it's available on instant watch.
9 years 2 months ago
Limbesdautomne's avatar

Limbesdautomne

I would like to buy this film not Fleur Pâle.
1 year 10 months ago
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