Pale Flower

January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

Muraki (Ryo Ikebe) has been in prison on murder charges, but he has just finished his sentence is now a free man. He seeks to return to the world of crime he left behind, but times have changed since he was first imprisoned. Muraki was part of a high level yakuza organization, for whom he performed whatever tasks he was assigned. He would steal, intimidate, and even kill for his bosses, often with no remorse. In fact, he even liked the role of hired assassin, even though it landed him in prison for some time. When he is freed, he reports his old bosses, only to learn that his clan has joined forces with a former enemy’s clan, in order to fend off outside attacks. This shakes Muraki up at first, but he resigns himself to his loyalties to his own clan, so he returns back to work for his former bosses. He soon begins to spend a lot of time in a gambling hall, where he can escape from the altered world. In this hall he meets Saeko (Mariko Kaga), a mysterious young woman who loves to watch all the high stakes action. She is obsessed with the dangerous side of the lifestyle, as well as the men who engage within it. Muraki is instantly drawn to her, but the combination of dangerous elements around them seem to doom their love. Can Muraki and Saeko somehow secure a future together, even as Muraki prepares to carry out another murder?

I’ve seen some wild 60s crime films out of Japan, so I expected Pale Flower to be another insane, visually dynamic picture. As it turns out, Pale Flower is not that kind of movie, but there is still style to burn. Masahiro Shinoda directs here and infuses the film with low key, but effective style that is a pleasure to watch. So don’t expect unusual camera angles or other in your face visual style choices, but Shinoda’s direction is well crafted and yields excellent visual presence. Pale Flower is also not a typical yakuza picture, as the usual themes and plot elements are absent, though of course, this is a film centered on underworld criminals. I was surprised by the lack of violence, most of which is dealt with off screen or just mentioned, though to be honest, the absence of violence is not a hindrance in Pale Flower. The pace is slower and more reserved, with a lot of focus on character development. This might not sit well with those seeking a wild, over the top yakuza movie, but I think genre fans should be satisfied. I had my expectations turned upside-down with Pale Flower myself, but I wasn’t disappointed in the least. Home Vision’s disc is a solid treatment, with a nice transfer and a couple of supplements tossed in. If you’re a fan of 60s Japanese cinema, then Pale Flower is more than recommended.

Video: How does it look?

Pale Flower is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is not a flawless visual presentation, but it is damn close and should delight fans to no end. Home Vision has given us a brand new digital transfer here and it shows, as the image is clean and very refined, despite the age and nature of the material involved. This film is about four decades old, which makes it easy to be grateful for such a clean source print. I didn’t see much in terms of grain or debris, which means the superb black & white visuals are never hindered. The contrast holds up well also, with stark and consistent black levels throughout. I never expected Pale Flower to look this good, but Home Vision has outdone themselves here.

Audio: How does it sound?

The original Japanese soundtrack is preserved here, via a somewhat dated, but more than acceptable mono option. This is a much cleaner, clearer presentation than I had expected, as very few age related defects can be heard. I heard a few minor pops and moments of harshness, but given the age of the material, this is a superb effort. Even the smallest sounds can be heard with ease, so nothing is ever drowned out or lost in the shuffle. This is good news, as the film uses a lot of background effects to add to the atmosphere of scenes. The musical score is simply awesome, so I was thrilled to hear it presented in such crisp, clear fashion. No worries on the dialogue front either, as all the vocals are sharp and never muffled. This disc also includes newly refined, optional English subtitles, should you need those.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc includes an interview with director Masahiro Shinoda, as well as a talent file on the gifted filmmaker.

Disc Scores

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