Love Under the Crucifix
With Ineko Arima, Tatsuya Nakadai, Ganjiro Nakamura.
Japan, 1962, DCP, color, 102 min.
Japanese with English subtitles.
DCP source: Janus Films
Produced by the independent production company Carrot Club and distributed by Shochiku, Tanaka’s final film is a sixteenth century-set jidaigeki (period film) about a Christian samurai played by Tatsuya Nakadai and a tea master’s stepdaughter, played by Carrot Club co-founder Ineko Arima, whose lust for him threatens to dethrone his God. Swathed in ornate layers of blues, pinks and greens, the film inverts the usual structure of Tanaka’s films, which feature delayed love confessions usually already marked by resignation. Arima’s tenacious longing makes Love Under the Crucifix Tanaka’s most erotic film, with sexual tension sustained by elegant (and never excessive) intimations and symbols, most pointedly a cross necklace. The sight of a woman (Keiko Kishi, another Carrot Club founder) sentenced to death for rejecting a nobleman’s advances inspires Arima, who sees in her a fellow sinner, to take radical action. As the concluding chapter of Tanaka’s directing career, Love Under the Crucifix is the peak of a linear progression and the natural culmination of Tanaka’s vested interest in a woman’s right to refuse—to turn down any man, to say no to an unwanted life. – Kelley Dong