Pale Flower (1964)
November 6, 2021 7:44 PM - Subscribe

A gangster, fresh out of prison for a killing, tries to resume his work for the gang, but is drawn into a nihilistic romance with a gambling addict in this Cold War Japanese noir directed by Masahiro Shinoda.

"Pale Flower" is one of the most haunting noirs I've seen, and something more; in 1964 it was an important work in an emerging Japanese New Wave of independent filmmakers, an exercise in existential cool [...] The director of "Pale Flower" is Masahiro Shinoda, whose visual choice is widescreen black and white and whose characters move with the grace of Antonioni's at about the same time.
-- Roger Ebert

Made just as the Japanese New Wave was gaining steady footing and released not three months after the passing of Yasujirô Ozu, Pale Flower came along at a watershed moment for Japanese cinema, but was nevertheless shelved for some time due to disputes between Shinoda, Baba, and their producers at Shochiku Company. It took 10 more years for the film to hit stateside in New York and The New York Times was kindly obliged to dismiss Shinoda’s film as a sub-Godardian exercise in style-over-substance. Of what unattainable substance they were in search of we may never know, but the ubiquitous despair that Shinoda felt and imbued through his careful compositions and movements, through Kaga and Ibeke’s beautifully drawn, emotionally acute performances, is palpable from those very first shots of Japan, with Maruki’s voiceover providing solemn philosophies for a country in existential tumult.
-- Chris Cabin, Slant Magazine
Currently streaming on Kanopy and the Criterion Channel.
posted by fleacircus (1 comment total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
This is a good little film. I saw it along with an interview with the director that is chock full of interesting information, and really just lays out the whole meaning of the film.

One minor interesting story from it is how they wanted a kind of has-been for a star, and found Ikebe Ryo apparently had gotten unable to deliver a lot of dialogue and couldn't even do it with someone there feeding him lines. So Ikebe was like, why are you hiring me I can't act. Masahiro told him he was hiring him for his cool sexy walk, not for his ability to act, and then Ikebe just did it all flawlessly.
posted by fleacircus at 10:23 AM on November 7, 2021 [2 favorites]

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