Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda

Review by Lillian Crawford

Directed by

Stephen Nomura Schible

Starring

Ryuichi Sakamoto

Anticipation.

What secrets lie behind those gorgeous scores?

Enjoyment.

Sakamoto mesmerises both in person and in song.

In Retrospect.

Delicate and intimate, Sakamoto’s music has found its rightful place.

Don’t miss this sensitive and intuitive portrait of the iconic Japanese film composer.

Codas give a sense of finality, of satisfaction with the course the notes have taken. It is a fitting title for Stephen Nomora Schible’s tender portrait of Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, whose mind’s eye is ever-fixed on the fragility of nature. His experience of cancer has heightened his concerns with radiation and has made environmentalism intrinsic to his music. The film strives, and largely succeeds, to represent this balance visually through its sharp perception of humanity’s relationship with the world.

The opening shots are hauntingly devoid of sound as the camera sweeps over landscapes scarred by tsunamis and nuclear bombs. They are interrupted by a rapturous rendition of Sakamoto’s theme to Nagisa Oshima’s Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, blurring the atrocities of World War Two with his formative ’80s style. Protest gives the 66-year old an infectious energy, and as the focus moves to the composer’s daily rituals, a distinct musicality emerges in life’s mundanity. The rain pounding on trees outside maintains a sparkle in his eye even as he swallows pills and brushes his weakened gums.

Schible is deeply respectful of his subject, never probing beyond the boundaries set by Sakamoto, the sole interviewee. Rather than presenting a narrow perspective, sufficient understanding is gathered from tales of his collaborations with a plethora of esteemed directors. Be it the movement of water in Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1971 sci-fi Solaris, or the fierce isolation of 2015’s The Revenant by Alejandro G Iñárritu, Sakamoto is overwhelmed by their appreciation of the sublime. Reality and cinema combine seamlessly as editor Hisayo Kushida transitions from studio recordings to film clips that outline an eclectic career.

Here Sakamoto demonstrates his own connection to nature. He sits in the forest and ponders birdsong, and is seen “fishing the sound” from pools of melting snow in the Arctic Circle. There is a unity in chaos that he hopes to channel through his compositions, to discern harmony from dissonance and blend the two in song. By exploring his passions and drives, Schible has given meaning beyond the surface to Sakamoto’s music. It makes for fascinating viewing, and even more beautiful listening.

Published 28 Jun 2018

Tags: Ryuichi Sakamoto

Anticipation.

What secrets lie behind those gorgeous scores?

Enjoyment.

Sakamoto mesmerises both in person and in song.

In Retrospect.

Delicate and intimate, Sakamoto’s music has found its rightful place.

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