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Pale Flower (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]

4.4 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

In this cool, seductive jewel of the Japanese New Wave, a yakuza, fresh out of prison, becomes entangled with a beautiful yet enigmatic gambling addict; what at first seems a redemptive relationship ends up leading him further down the criminal path. Bewitchingly shot and edited and laced with a fever-dream-like score by Toru Takemitsu (Woman in the Dunes, Ran), this breakthrough gangster romance from Masahiro Shinoda (Samurai Spy, Double Suicide) announced an idiosyncratic major filmmaking talent. The pitch-black Pale Flower (Kawaita hana) is an unforgettable excursion into the underworld.

Special Features

New high-definition digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition

New video interview with director Masahiro Shinoda

Selected-scene audio commentary by film scholar Peter Grilli, coproducer of Music for the Movies: Toru Takemitsu

Original theatrical trailer

New and improved English subtitle translation

PLUS: A new essay by film critic Chuck Stephens


Product Details

  • Actors: Ryo Ikebe, Mariko Kaga, Takashi Fujiki, Chisako Hara, Eijiro Tono
  • Directors: Masahiro Shinoda
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Blu-ray, Black & White, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: Japanese
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1 (Read more about DVD/Blu-ray formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Unrated
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • DVD Release Date: May 17, 2011
  • Run Time: 96 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B004NWPY4I
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #74,738 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
This is an absolutely beautiful yakuza film by Masahiro Shinoda. It is much deeper and thought-provoking than typical yakuza b-movies, which glorify violence and the gangster lifestyle. However, this is not a b-movie, but more of a poetic and artistic yakuza noir. It was films like this, and the famous yakuza films by Kinji Fukasaku - such as the 'Battles without Honor' series, and 'Graveyard of Honor' - that redefined the yakuza genre into morality plays that were highly critical of the criminal aspects of Japanese society. Thus, the film is not action-packed, but much slower in pace, which actually makes it much stronger.

This edition, released by Home Vision Entertainment, has a good transfer and picture quality, and the film also boasts a very good score. The music is especially powerful near the end of the film. Overall, it is a must for anyone who likes yakuza films, film noir, or Japanese cinema.
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Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
(4 1/2) stars. "Pale Flower" is the complete movie package, with a strong primary story but also good looks in terms of how it takes advantage of its black & white, retro-style, and eye-catching lead characters. Unlike many other Japanese films of this genre and time period, the music was also a good fit and didn't suffer from trying to sound too "western".

The movie explores two people, a criminal and a criminal wannabe, who both seek a fast life they know is meaningless, who want to find something more even as their gut tells them there is nothing more to be found. The power of the film shows how easily people can be fooled by, and try to fill their live's with, superficial actions that provide only a temporary rush and escape. The characters know this, but feel life's other options are just as pointless or beyond their reach. Ryo Ikebe puts in a strong performance and oozes cool, I'm not sure why I haven't seen him in more leading man roles.

It is easy for the viewer to get seduced by the superficial highs as well, as you find yourself rooting for two very charismatic people who, while not outright evil, are certainly not trying to leave any meaningful mark on the world (being a killer doesn't help much of course). They know it is all a facade however, on the one hand feeling they should try to live the "decent life", but not enough to run the risk of being mired in the tedium of everyday catchings.

The 1960's Japanese gangster world of gambling is interesting, including playing some games I had never seen before, but serves mostly as a convenient backdrop to a movie that is primarilly about the human condition. Don't expect any happy endings here.
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Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
What can I say about a blu-ray Criterion black and white Japanese yakuza film so well executed that I have to watch it over and over? What can I say about purposely semi-overblown whites melting into grays and the blackest of blacks to create an magnificently incredible viewing experience? Nothing. Of course one has to appreciate film to appreciate this type of film....the score sounds like Lalo Schifrin meets Forbidden Planet. Don't get this one if you enjoy vhs or have ADD- it's not very long, but you just won't get it. If you are new to this type of film and you can handle subtitles you need to see this....
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Format: DVD
Most Yakuza films that are known to The West (and available on DVD) are Kinji Fukasaku's violent ones (Yakuza Papers, Graveyard of Honor and Violent Mobster) and they are enjoyable but this one is a real gem that has very little do with Fukasaku's one; Pale Flower feels more like a Jean Pierre Melville noir. The film follows Muraki, a yakuza hitman freshly released from jail, who goes straight back to his yakuza gang; and embarks on a unhealthy relationship with constant thrill-seeking young woman. The film is not really a crime film as it does not have much of plot but is more character and style driven boasting some brilliantly directed scenes especially the ending. There is gripping delve into the world of gambling dens yet the film is somewhat pessimistic. Muraki hangs around smoking and is somewhat nihilistic character while the young woman Saeko is an aimless rich woman both bored with their lives. This is in no way a normal yakuza film and those expecting one will be disappointed it is more of a gripping exploration of characters living out vacuous lives. Stylishly direction and a gripping story makes this a Japanese film well worth watching. Criterion have once again made an obscure classic available in a very good transfer.
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Format: DVD
KAWAITA HANA (PALE FLOWER / DRIED FLOWER [LIT.]). Progressively Diminished Excitement.

Rating = ***
Director: Masahiro Shinoda
Producers: Masao Shirai et al.
Streaming
1964

Film = solid three (3) stars; cinematography/lighting = four (4) stars; score = 3.5 stars. Director Masahiro Shinoda demonstrates his complete mastery of all components of the film medium and proceeds to demonstrate the loss of his creative talents (and mastery) in the same movie! He delivers a binary film consisting of two acts. Act One (roughly the first half of the movie) is taunt with fresh, edgy suspense and excitement as well as excellent direction. Act Two becomes perfunctory; surprisingly, it fails to build on the momentum Shinoda has heretofore created. Much of this disappointment is due to diminished "directorial energy," excessive repetition, and repeated telegraphing of how the movie will end. The plot is centered on a high-priced daytime hooker with a death wish she demonstrates by her nocturnal activities (including careless high-stakes gambling in dangerous [all-male] gangster environments, high-speed auto racing on city streets, and a growing interest in narcotics). The day-to-day machinations of low-to-mid level yakuza gangs provide a backdrop with card gambling activities vividly (and repeatedly) portrayed, prostitution (of course), and the occasional murder of a rival gang member. Line deliveries are riddled with clues (i.e., telegraphing) as to how this story will end. Act Two includes a dream sequence which only serves to underline what will eventually happen (and seems to have been inserted for audience members who are really, really slow on the uptake!). Talented character actors provide the major element of menace elicited by the film.
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