Pale Flower

96 minutes 1962

"What was so wrong about killing one of these stupid animals?" ponders Ryo Ikebe in voice-over as director Masahiro Shinoda pans across a crowded city street in black-and-white 'Scope, setting the malignant tone of this fine Japanese noir (1962). Ikebe plays a yakuza assassin just released from a prison term for killing a member of a rival gang; he quickly becomes enthralled with a gamine (Mariko Kaga) he meets in a men's gaming parlor, but a third gang has forced a realignment in his absence, and before long he's called into service again. Among Shinoda's marvelous set pieces are a nightmare sequence that makes creepy use of two-dimensional space, and a knife attack in a bowling alley set to a string instrumental of "It's Now or Never." In Japanese with subtitles.

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