The final performance from Ryuichi Sakamoto to be premiered in new film, ‘Opus,’ next month
The brilliance of the late Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto will grace the screen once more as his farewell performance is set to premiere next month at the Venice International Film Festival.
The film, ‘Opus’ will display the final live performance of Ryuichi Sakamoto before his death. Directed by Sakamoto’s son, Neo Sora, and produced by his wife, Norika Sora, ‘Opus’ will be displayed to the world for the first time next week at the Venice International Film Festival on September 5th. The performance in the film takes place at the NHK Broadcast Center studios in Tokyo.
In a very intimate setting, completely displayed in 4K black and white, Sakamoto plays through the different stages of his life’s work, showcasing 20 different compositions, including his work from films such as ‘The Last Emperor’ and ‘Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence,’ and even plays pieces from his final album, ‘12.’ Sakamoto rarely talks during the entire two-hour duration, as he lets the music be the main feature but occasionally gives his insight, and he even goes as far as having a small acting role in the film as it goes beyond just a musical performance.
“Part of the reason why we decided to shoot in black and white was because we thought that also highlighted the physicality of his body, with the black and white keys of the piano.” – Norika Sora, Producer and Wife of Sakamoto, Associated Press
The film is incredibly emotional and contains moments that would make it hard for anybody to hold back tears. One of the final sequences of ‘Opus’ is when the last song is playing, and Sakamoto disappears, but the piano continues to play on its own under the spotlight to show that his music will live on forever.
“The project was conceived as a way to record my performances – while I was still able to perform – in a way that is worth preserving for the future. We borrowed the NHK Broadcast Center’s 509 Studio to record in, which is a place that I think offers the finest acoustics in Japan. I played every piece at home which we recorded on an iPhone to construct the overall composition of the concert that will express the progression of time from morning into night. Everything was meticulously storyboarded so that the camera positions and the lighting changed significantly with each song. I went into the shoot a little nervous, thinking this might be my last chance to share my performance with everyone in this way. We recorded a few songs a day with a lot of care. In some sense, while thinking of this as my last opportunity to perform, I also felt that I was able to break new grounds. Simply playing a few songs a day with a lot of concentration was all I could muster at this point in my life. Perhaps due to the exertion, I felt utterly hollow afterwards, and my condition worsened for about a month. Even so, I feel relieved that I was able to record before my death – a performance that I was satisfied with.” – Ryuichi Sakamoto, Posthumous statement about ‘Opus.’
Sakamoto had been receiving treatment for cancer in the years before his death. He died on March 28th of this year. In 1987, he won the Academy Award for Best Original Score for ‘The Last Emperor,’ making him the first Japanese composer to take home the honor.
Sakamoto’s management released a playlist featuring music he selected to be played at his funeral. Listen to what is titled the ‘last playlist’ below.
Image credit: Joi Ito/ Flickr Creative Commons