Recently released by the Criterion Collection on remastered DVD and Blu-Ray, Pale Flower is a cool, introspective Japanese bakuto-eiga (gambling film). The elegant narrative focuses on freshly released yakuza Muraki (Ryo Ikebe) and devilishly misleading Saeko (Mariko Kaga), who gaily chauffeurs him back into the depths of the Japanese underworld. The simple, carefully constructed plot is merely a high-octane vehicle for the doomed lovers and their affair with ever-shifting fortunes. Saeko is a giggling ingenue, offering a metaphoric round of Russian roulette and Muraki is her brooding, honor-bound partner.
Flawlessly filmed in crisp blacks and whites, Pale Flower is more transcendent nightmare than crime-thriller, with Saeko its dizzying vision, circling Muraki like death.
“When I finished shooting it,” director Shinoda once revealed to interviewer Joan Mellen, “I realized that my youth was over.”
By Britta R. Moline 6/11/2011
For more on Pale Flower:
Loser Take All: Chuck Stephens for the Criterion Collection