Ryuichi Sakamoto: Opus review – a stark, emotional finale from master musician

In his last weeks of life, the Oscar-winning composer is filmed at the piano by his son. It is an almost wordless paean to a remarkable career

Short of presenting nothing more than music and a blank screen, this documentary about the late Japanese composer-performer Ryuichi Sakamoto’s last appearances is as stark and minimal as a concert film can get. And yet it’s a work suffused with emotional tones and shades, surprisingly not all of them sad even though the subject knew at the time of filming he had mere weeks left before he’d die of cancer.

There are moments when director Neo Sora, Sakamoto’s son, turns up the lighting for the more upbeat songs and we can see the master smile, pleased with his own performance, or the composition, or … we know not what, as there is almost no dialogue, no nattering about the life. We had all that in an earlier documentary, Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda. In Opus it is the music, played by the man himself, that is completely sufficient to the moment and all that remains, with the occasional very human stumbles and missed notes. When he says he needs a break for a while, exhausted by a performance, the strain is painfully visible, audible, practically palpable.

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