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film review
  • Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda
  • Directed by: Stephen Nomura Schible
  • Starring: Ryuichi Sakamoto
  • Classification: 14A; 100 minutes


3 out of 4 stars

Ryuichi Sakamoto in Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda went from a pop icon of Japan's technological aspirations to leading activist post-Fukushima.

Ryuichi Sakamoto, the Japanese musician, environmental activist and film-score maestro, seems to be a fascinating guy.

I say “seems to be,” because Stephen Nomura Schible’s fetching, lyrical and super-chill new documentary on the man isn’t a life story or a deep-dive character study. Rather it is a heartfelt mediation on the creative process, with elegantly presented ideas on nature, music, mortality and things out of tune. We meet Sakamoto – just Sakamoto; no friends, family or peers – as he recovers from throat cancer. He’s supposed to be saving his strength, but the urge to compose is too great. He talks about tight deadlines scoring such films as 2015’s The Revenant and 1987’s The Last Emperor.

We watch him work on a new album, inspired by Bach and filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky. Sakamoto hopes to live long, but is aware a relapse is possible. As he hits a note on the piano, he thinks of things that will not fade. A sound? A human life?

As for Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda, the film resonates long after its 100 meandering minutes are done.