In the months before Ryuichi Sakamoto died of cancer in March 2023, the composer was filmed giving some of his final performances of works from across his storied career at a studio in Tokyo’s NHK Broadcast Center. The film is called Opus, and it receives its world premiere on September 5 at Venice Film Festival. It was directed by his son Neo Soro. Watch a performance of his music from Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Sheltering Sky over at Deadline.
The film include performances of works by Yellow Magic Orchestra, score excerpts from films including The Last Emperor and Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, and music from his final album 12. The movie was produced by Sakamoto’s wife and manager Norika Sora. Deadline shared a posthumous statement from Sakamoto about his work on the film.
“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.”
Following his death, Sakamoto’s management shared the late composer’s final playlist.\