Pale Flower


Pale Flower
乾いた花 (Kawaita Hana)

Japan, 1964, 96’, Japanese
Directed by: Shinoda Masahiro
Screenplay: Shinoda Masahiro, Baba Masaru 
Photography (color): Kosugi Masao 
Editing: Sugihara Yoshi
Art Direction: Toda Shigemasa
Music: Takahashi Yuji, Takemitsu Toru        
Producers: Shirai Masao, Wakatsuki Shigeru
Cast: Ikebe Ryo, Kaga Mariko, Fujiki Takashi, Sugiura Naoki, Mikami Shin’ichiro

Date of First Release in Territory: March 1st, 1964

Released by Shochiku in 1964, Shinoda Masahiro’s Pale Flower appeared when films about the yakuza – Japanese gangsters – were mainstays at rival Toei, as well as at other studios.
Scripted by Shinoda and Baba Masaru from a story by Ishihara Shintaro, the film had the outlines of a yakuza genre standard: Muraki (Ikebe Ryo), a hitman just released from prison, becomes attracted to Saeko (Kaga Mariko), a rich girl with a passion for high-stakes gambling and a dangerous curiosity about illegal drugs. He shares something of the former, if not the latter. Then gang rivalries inexorably draw him back to his deadly profession.   
Shinoda’s treatment of this story, however, was anything but standard. A charter member of Shochiku’s New Wave of young directors that included Oshima Nagisa and Yoshida Yoshishige (who later changed his first name to Kiju.), Shinoda rebelled against Japanese film industry conventions, taking inspiration from the Nouvelle Vague then revolutionizing French – and world – cinema. 
The result was a yakuza film unlike any other made before or since: Shot in stylish black-and-white and propelled by Takemitsu Toru’s jazzy score, Pale Flower had a thoroughly contemporary look and feel. It reflected a mid-60’s Tokyo that was rapidly modernizing, but still had the rough edges of the lawless early postwar period.  
The film also rejected the macho romanticism then prevalent in the genre. Muraki may have a tough-guy exterior, but when he is hunted by a sly, shadowy hitman from another gang, he shows flashes of vulnerability and fear. And when the willful Saeko draws him into her pursuit of higher stakes and bigger highs, he becomes her enabler, as well as her lover. Finally he finds himself the subject of her amoral gaze, as he kills for a boss that sees him only as a tool. 
Toei films of the period typically portrayed their self-sacrificing yakuza heroes in a noble light, echoing a long tradition: They were samurai in modern dress. Muraki, by contrast, has his admirers, including a young chinpira (apprentice gangster) who once tried to knife him, but he is finally an isolated character in a world without values, the samurai code included.  
This film, with its mix of spiritual emptiness and visual beauty, impressed Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese so much that they purchased the rights, while Scorsese was said to have seen it thirty times. 
One-of-a-kind outlier Pale Flower may be; it’s still as borderless and original as anything Shochiku, still in operation as a major studio, ever made.    

Shinoda Masahiro
Born in 1931, Shinoda Masahiro entered the Shochiku Studio in 1953, where he worked as an assistant director for Ozu Yasujiro and others. Like Oshima Nagisa, Shinoda became part of Shochiku’s initiative to promote the work of its younger directors, in imitation of France’s Nouvelle Vague. Shinoda frequently focused on characters on society’s margins or on the edge of desperation – or both. He also had strong interest in traditional theater, as exemplified by his 1969 masterpiece Double Suicide. His 1986 samurai drama Gonzo the Spearman, which starred his wife Iwashita Shima, won the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.


1960 – Dry Lake
1964 – Pale Flower 
1965 – Samurai Spy
1971 – Silence
1974 – Himiko 
1995 – Sharaku
1984 – MacArthur’s Children 
1990 – Childhood Days 
1997 – Moonlight Serenade
2003 – Spy Sorge
Mark Schilling
Film director: SHINODA Masahiro
Year: 1964
Running time: 96'
Country: Japan
26/04 - 11:10 AM
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
26-04-2022 11:10 26-04-2022 12:46Europe/Rome Pale Flower Far East Film Festival Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da UdineCEC Udine