directed by Masahiro Shinoda (1964)
From the Japanese New Wave movement emerges this hard boiled noir. Pale Flower, of the gambling noir sub genre, is tough, cool, and stylish. Shot in such stark black and white that only slivers of the action are often visible, it takes us on a cold journey to the Tokyo underworld where addiction, desperation, skewed loyalty, and failed redemption run rampant.
It follows yakuza gangster Muraki who has just been released from prison for murder to find his old life changed. His gang’s in a truce with his rivals, he no longer yearns fpr the woman that waited for him, a young man enters his life unexpectedly, as does an strange, beautiful and mesmerizing gambling addict named Saeko.
Muraki is played with calm gravitas who barely registers emotion whether he’s falling in love or some one attempting his assassination. His contorted pain finally reveals itself in a surreal nightmare sequence that will have you wondering if Polanski saw this before making Rosemary’s Baby.
Saeko is equally enigmatic. Wildness and lunacy stir quietly behind her doe eyes. It almost makes you wonder if she were simply perfect casting for her inherent madness or if Mariko Kaga is one fine actress who does more with her vacant eyes than all the smizing in 100 cycles of ANTM (yes, I’ve taken up watching again.)
It’s funny, I usually scoff at remakes, but I often cast them in my head as I watch classics. In this case, I’d move the story to Las Vegas, focusing on rival meth gangs. Titus Welliver would be my lead with Juliette Lewis as his former lover, Joseph Gordon Levitt as his new young friend and, if she can lose the vampiness, Evan Rachel Wood perhaps as the degenerate gambler though I’d consider Amanda Seyfried or Angela Bettis.