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Ryuichi Sakamoto's 'Opus' Premieres at Venice Festival

 Ryuichi Sakamoto's 'Opus' Premieres at Venice Festival

Ryuichi Sakamoto's 'Opus' Premieres at Venice Festival
Ryuichi Sakamoto's 'Opus' Premieres at Venice Festival(Image-Getty)

In late 2022, the renowned Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, who was battling terminal cancer, embarked on a poignant nine-day journey at a Tokyo studio. During this time, he performed 20 of his beloved compositions that spanned his illustrious career. This pared-back performance featured Sakamoto and his piano, a deeply personal endeavor that would become the foundation for the concert film "Opus." This film, capturing the essence of Sakamoto's artistry during his final days, made its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival approximately six months after the composer's passing at the age of 71.

Sakamoto's son, Neo Sora, played a crucial role in documenting this artistic farewell. He shared insights into his father's determination, despite his declining physical health, to create something meaningful before he could no longer play. Sakamoto, an Oscar and Grammy-winning composer celebrated for his iconic movie scores in films like "The Last Emperor" and "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence," as well as his pioneering work with the electronic music ensemble Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO), was eager to leave behind a musical legacy.

The film "Opus," presented in black and white, places a spotlight on the physicality of Sakamoto's performance. The selection of music and the sequence in which they appear in the film were meticulously curated by the composer himself. Neo Sora, along with director of photography Bill Kirstein and their team, meticulously captured these performances, averaging three pieces per day, often in just one to three takes.

One poignant moment in the film showcases Sakamoto as he prepares to play one of his early career hits, the up-tempo composition "Tong Poo." In this scene, he acknowledges his physical limitations, remarking, "This is tough. I'm pushing myself." Sora noted that his father's inability to play the piece at its original speed led to innovative musical methods and ideas to convey the essence of the song. For fans familiar with the track, this adaptation would be particularly touching.

Despite these challenges, once Sakamoto begins to play, the film comes alive with his enduring vitality and energy, making the audience forget about the physical constraints. Neo Sora expressed mixed emotions about presenting the film at the Venice Film Festival, an event his father had attended multiple times. While there was a bittersweet aspect to the occasion, it was also a celebration of Sakamoto's remarkable life and artistic legacy. Sora believed that his father would be immensely proud and delighted to see this film, a testament to his enduring passion for music and his indelible mark on the world of sound.

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