Pale Flower

Director: Masahiro Shinoda

1964. English subtitles. Black and white. Anamorphic. 96 min.

Rightly acclaimed by critic Dennis Schwartz as ‘one of the best and most powerful yakuza films ever made,’ director Masahiro Shinoda’s austere existential masterpiece charts the downward spiral of a lonely, doomed gangster. Set almost exclusively in the night-time hinterland of Tokyo’s gambling dens, Pale Flower’s exquisitely composed images achieve a transcendental beauty that’s reminiscent of the work of French master Jean-Pierre Melville. The stark black-and-white photography by Masao Kosugi beautifully captures the atmosphere of noisy racetracks, smoky gambling parlours and the shadowy back streets of Tokyo. The film is further distinguished by Toru Takemitsu’s cacophonous jazz fusion score that acts as counterpoint to the film’s jarring rhythms and fast-cut editing. Initially banned in Japan due to its bitter and subversive tone, the cool yet quietly devastating Pale Flower is ripe for rediscovery.

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