An unconventional portrait of a great Japanese composer. Info
Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda is an intimate portrait of the composer as a relentlessly inquisitive explorer. While the 2017 documentary does feature some incredible archival footage, director Stephen Nomura Schible wisely chooses to focus mainly on Sakamoto in the present day. Coda follows the composer around his home and studio. After a period of inactivity while in treatment for cancer, Sakamoto is anxious to work again, and determined to make the most important music he can with whatever time he has left. The film opens with a haunting sequence as Sakamoto returns to Japan after a devastating tsunami, playing a battered piano that survived the disaster. Whether he's playing a storm-battered piano, watching Tartovsky films on his couch or rubbing a coffee cup on a cymbal, Sakamoto seems to be constantly composing and analyzing.
Coda also features some fascinating footage of Sakamoto showing his evolution as a composer. From his groundbreaking period in synth-pop supergroup Yellow Magic Orchestra to his soundtrack work, Sakamoto seems to have been constantly creating throughout the 1980s. Clips from his works from the 1990s and 2000s show his growing concerns with environmental issues and humanity's destructive nature, which lend depth to other scenes in the film of Sakamoto speaking at an anti-nuclear demonstration in Japan and visiting the North Pole to record sounds of water. Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda wisely eschews music documentary tropes. By letting Sakamoto speak for himself, the film is imparted with his intelligence and insight, resulting in a moving film on creativity and mortality. —Ian Adcock