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Pale Flower [Criterion Collection] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080p/24
  • Audio Codec: Japanese PCM 1.0
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: A (Region-Locked)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: Criterion Collection
  • Blu-ray Release Date: May 17, 2011
  • List Price: $39.95

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Pale Flower - Widescreen B&W Subtitle

Purchase Pale Flower [Criterion Collection] on Blu-ray at CD Universe

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Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4.5/5]

Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]

Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]

Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2.5/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG  thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Film

[Rating:4.5/5]

Being a lover of classical music, especially modern and contemporary, knowing that great Toru Takemitsu scored this film would have been enough to pique my interest. Adding the facts that Pale Flower was helmed by one of the founding members of the Japanese New Wave, Masahiro Shinoda, and starred one of Yasujiro Ozu’s favorite actors, Ryo Ikebe, and it puts it over the top for me.

Pale Flower is cool, stylized, and sexy slice of Japanese cinema. It laid the groundwork for the classic yakuza and gambling film with its silky whites, obsidian blacks, and shady gangsters. Aging yakuza Muraki (Ikebe) is just out of prison for murder and trying to stay out, but he comes across the young Saeko (Mariko Kaga) in a gambling house. Beneath her innocence lies a seductive allure and a lust for gambling that he just can’t resist. Her spurts of wild laughter, love of driving fast – it’s too much for Muraki to ignore, so he starts escorting her to high stakes games in the gambling underworld. The mystery is never solved, however. Their relationship remains a superficial one. Who is she? Where is she from? We never learn, but this minx is leading him deeper into the world of crime and possibly toward his doom.

A sense of dread hangs over Shinoda’s film from the beginning, driven by the intensely particular gambling scenes filled with sweaty drama and the pulsating, avant-garde score by Toru Takemitsu that ebbs and flows like the ocean even at times striking like a thunderstorm.

Pale Flower, its Japanese name Kawaita hana, roughly translates to “withered” flower. It’s life on the verge of death. It’s the hint of danger. The gleam of violence. The stench of murder. It’s sexy, luscious and modern, even today.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

This new high definition transfer was created on a Spirit Datacine from a 35mm print struck from the original camera negative. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, warps, jitter, and flicker were manually removed using MTI’s DRS system and Pixel Farm’s PFClean system, while Digital Vision’s DVNR system was used for small dirt, grain, and noise reduction.

Film noir never looks astoundingly great, given the techniques used to capture the film – blown out whites, high contrasts, crushed blacks – but these are all things that are meant to be, and this release of Pale Flower looks rather good given the prerequisites. It’s film-like, and those blacks, though not quite as inky as I would like them to be, are quite dark, they do tend to waver a bit, however. Source damage is also visible quite often, but detail is strong nonetheless and the picture draws you in, taking on a good textured quality.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

The monaural soundtrack was mastered at 24-bit from a 35mm optical soundtrack print. Clicks, thumps, hiss, and hum were manually removed using Pro Tools HD. Crackle was attenuated using AudioCube’s integrated workstation.

The PCM 1.0 (48kHz/24-bit) Japanese soundtrack nicely conveys the Takemitsu score, which is a big part of how this film comes across. Dialogue sounds natural and there is a decent amount of depth given there is only one channel. Distortions are also minimal.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:2.5/5]

The supplements are patchy on this Criterion release, unusual for the studio. While it is great to have a brand-new high definition video interview of the director himself on here, the audio commentaries are limited to only a few specific scenes and pertain only to Takemitsu’s admittedly brilliant score. Other than that, there’s a good essay in the typically handsome booklet.

The supplements provided with this release are:

  • Masahiro Shinoda (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 0:21.02) – In this interview, recorded exclusively for the Criterion Collection in 2010, writer-director Masahiro Shinoda discusses the production of Pale Flower.
  • Selected-Scene Commentary – This selected-scene commentary features Peter Grilli, president of the Japan Society of Boston and coproducer of the 1994 documentary Music for Movies: Toru Takemitsu, discussing Takemitsu’s score for Pale Flower.
  • Theatrical Trailer (2.35:1; 1080p/24)
  • Booklet: Features a colorfully written essay by film critic Chuck Stephens, which will grant one a great understanding of the film, its director, and the process leading to its creation and evolution.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4.5/5]

This classic would change Asian cinema forever with its cool, noir attitude, beautiful femme fatale, and gruff leading man. Criterion has unleashed yet another amazing film with a high quality transfer. Highly recommended.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product align=”right”]B004NWPY4I[/amazon-product]

BestBuy.com:
Pale Flower - Widescreen B&W Subtitle

Purchase Pale Flower [Criterion Collection] on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Film
[Rating:4.5/5]

Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]

Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]

Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2.5/5]

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