Shinoda’s first masterpiece: Pale Flower


Shinoda’s (1964) “Pale Flower”(Kawaita hana) has oodles of noir visual style (Kosugi Masao’s fluid cinematography) along with a rather unTakemitsu Takemitsu soundtrack: mostly standard gangster movie jazz, along with an instrumental arrangement of “It’s Now or Never” for an attempted murder in a bowling alley, and, even more startling, the finale of Purcell’s opera “Dido and Aeneas”!

Definitely, it’s a gangster (yakusa) movie, it is also very much a gambling movie, with prolonged scenes of gamblers kneeling on the floor (shot at Ozu height, but panning as well as cutting from gambler to gambler).


I think that Kage Mariko as a mysterious high-stakes gambler who inveigles Muraki into accompanying her to gambling dens and a high-speed drag race (without seatbelts) is the title character. Though he is more jaded, her exhilaration in risk-taking, gambling and driving, at least somewhat intrigues the protagonist, Muraki (Ikebe Ryo [Early Spring]), who is just out of three years in prison for one gang killing at the end and back in at the end, dallying with Saeko and neglecting the woman who loves him (Hara Chisako) and waited for him in between. Muraki is not merely “cool” but outright cold, and not just as a killer.

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As Yoh, a heroin-using half-Chinese gangster is intriguing. I don’t recall Fujiji Takashi and him speaking. Throwing knives, yes, and watching Muraki and Saeko gambling. He had starred in Shinoda’s 1962 “Tears on the Lion’s Mane, with Kage. He seems more a lone wolf (latter-day ronin) than Muraki, who is a loyal and dutiful retainer (latter-day samurai).

Not the nihilism or the stabbings, but the gambling irked the censors, and the movie was shelved by Shôchiku Studio for eight months after it was completed.

©2016, Stephen O. Murray


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