The Ambitious (1970): Samurais are dead!

The Ambitious (1970): Samurais are dead!

While young indie filmmakers are rising, trying to find a new way to tell story, to break taboos and so on, Daisuke Ito is directing his final movie: The Ambitious. Here, the old and tired director is giving nothing less than a cinema lesson.

Daisuke Ito’s Ryoma Sakamoto is a pure-hearted idealist willing to change the feudal society. He doesn’t understand why people aren’t equal, why the way of the samurai is still considered as a model when it’s just became a power. And Sakamoto is a little crazy (see his haircut!), but he’s a ‘modern’ man: for example he’s the first japanese man to do a honeymoon trip.

This man doesn’t care about old society’s values. When a samurai is speaking to him, he stands up! When he’s bored by his clan, he just leaves (!). When he’s attacked, he takes a gun – swords are so old-fashioned! And so on. Ryoma Sakamoto isn’t like everybody else.

Daisuke Ito started to work during the silent cinema era. As movies couldn’t speak, directors had to make speak images. Which explains why The Ambitious is so efficient and clean. Because each frame is thought and built to convey the story. Each technic used, each objects or movements are fully part of the story. There’s so much amazing ideas here (the ending: abstract and violent!!!).

It’s obvious that if you don’t have any clue about the Japanese History you’ll be lost. Because nothing is explained, it’s shown: symbols, facts, ideas… But if you don’t know what they mean… It may become quite difficult to really understand everything. It’s a very subtle movie for the better and for the worst!

Of course, this historical biopic offers also some great, simple, universal moment. Behind Sakamoto’s ‘heroic actions’, there’s a love and a friendship story where Daisuke Ito shows the human side of the man. Where friendship is more important than political ideas (see the final 20 minutes).

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