Notable Cast: Ryō Ikebe, Mariko Kaga, Takashi Fujiki, Chisako Hara
Muraki is a Yakuza member fresh out of prison after some years spent behind bars due to completing a hit for his boss. Once out, he returns to the city and settles back into his local gambling den, where he meets a young woman named Saeko, hard on betting all the cash she's got. He becomes infatuated with this alluring woman and the two form a very destructive relationship with one another, in this gangster film which is less about the action typically associated with the films of that time and rather a brilliant character study on the animalistic nature within us all.
Pale Flower is without a doubt one of the finest films of all time, and yet one of the most under looked and almost unspoken of as well. The small group of people who I know that are in appreciation of this masterwork have all reached that decision based on my trying to cram this into the eye sockets of every film fan I know. Whereas I like to recommend a film, and usually leave it at that, I would stand upon the highest stage possible and preach this to all!
What makes this film work first and foremost is the outstanding performances from its to leads. Ryō Ikebe gives a subtle look at a hardened gangster who has fallen out of the circle since exiting prison. He is still very well feared and respected by his colleagues and the locals, but you can sense him an urge to leave that lifestyle behind. He wants to break free and become a 'normal' man once again, but he simply can't. His job is the monster that will always follow right behind him with every step he makes for the rest of time. Mariko Kaga as the beautiful and curious Saeko, demands attention in her every scene, arresting the viewer with her entrapping gaze. The eyes of this woman are something else and a large part of her excellent performance is channeled through them. She can achieve so much by just the way she glances or looks dead on with someone. I believe this is what created Muraki's fascination with her and ultimately cause him to follow her down her destructive path. I don't want to get too much into what happens, as the journey and where it leads are the most rewarding parts of the film.
To not repeat myself for the hundredth time, and to wrap things up, I challenge any film goer to walk away from this one unimpressed. It's a dark tale, but it is inspiring on so many levels. It pushes me to further myself in what I do as a storyteller and makes my standard of quality for cinema all that much higher. Ryō Ikebe and Mariko Kaga have some of the greatest onscreen chemistry that any couple ever has, albeit in a much different vein than your typical romantic affair. If your looking for a film that screams cool, prepare to go completely deaf by the levels this reaches. You have been warned! Drop what your doing and see this one right now.
Written by Josh Parmer