The film was directed by the late Japanese composer’s son Neo Sora.
Opus – a new film that includes some of Ryuichi Sakamoto’s final performances – is set to receive its world premiere at Venice Film Festival on 5 September. The cinematic work features a career-spanning selection from the late pioneer’s repertoire, performed solo on piano. Prior to Sakamoto’s death in March this year, he recorded some of his final performances at Tokyo’s NHK Broadcast Center.
The film – which was produced by Sakamoto’s wife and manager Norika Sora – features him performing alone on stage, playing 20 compositions from his work on piano. This includes music from Yellow Magic Orchestra – with a new arrangement of the track Tong Poo – his scores for The Last Emperor, The Sheltering Sky and Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence as well as compositions from his final album 12. The film also features works that hadn’t previously been played as solo piano performances such as The Wuthering Heights and Ichimei – Small Happiness.
Alongside a teaser for the film, Deadline has shared a posthumous statement from Sakamoto on the filming of Opus. “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,” he says.
“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,” Sakamoto’s statement continues.
“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,” Sakamoto concludes.
Ryuichi Sakamoto passed away on 28 March 2023. Following his death, the musician’s management team shared a final playlist from Sakamoto which he “had been privately compiling to be played at his own funeral to accompany his passing”. Listen to “Ryuichi’s Last Playlist” here.