Ryuichi Sakamoto | Opus 2023

Directed by Neo Sora Rhythms

Opus is a starkly intimate, self-performed elegy capturing a dying man’s genius.

Aug 13

The Civic

Aug 14

The Civic

Japan In Japanese with English subtitles
103 minutes B&W / DCP
documentary film exempt from NZ Classification labelling requirements



Norika Sora, Albert Tholen, Eric Nyari, Aiko Masubuchi, Jeremy Thomas


Bill Kirstein


Takuya Kawakami


Ryuichi Sakamoto


Ryuichi Sakamoto


Venice, New York, Tokyo 2023; CPH: DOX 2024


If you’ve got no truck with a film featuring little else but a man at his piano, then think again. Filmed just months before Sakamoto’s death at 72, Opus is both a moving performance by a dying man and a chance for the composer to delve into the finely nuanced notes of a lifetime’s work; a one-time-only gift to fans that conveys the depth of emotion in a body of work that prizes Satie-esque gestures of minimalism and perfectly rendered, heartbreaking melodies over the electro-pop he played with the Yellow Magic Orchestra.  

Helmed by Sakamoto’s son, Neo Sora, and filmed in black and white, there’s an unexpected drama to the performance as Sakamoto occasionally gets it wrong or, exhausted, announces a brief pause to proceedings. Featuring pieces that cover the gamut of his 50-year career including fresh readings of YMO classics "Tong Poo" and "Happy Ending" and several of his unforgettable soundtracks – including themes from Nagisa Ōshima’s Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983) and Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor (1987) and The Sheltering Sky (1990) – this stark but intensely intimate film is a tender, brave and honest intermingling of art as life and, inevitably, a rumination on mortality. — Gary Steel