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  • Writer's pictureJack Salvadori

Venice #80 - Riūichi Sakamoto | Opus

Updated: Sep 8, 2023

Play it again, Ryūichi.

All it takes is a dark room, silence, followed by the right music, to properly lose ourselves, wandering in our own thoughts, and reach a meditating state very rare to find in the cinema. But the music has to be just right, notes capable of touching your soul.

Ryūichi Sakamoto appears worn out by the illness, which will put an end to his life only a few weeks later, on 23rd March 2023. His shiny white hair strikes against the lucid black Yamaha piano, its sinuous curves merging with the maestro’s delicate movements, creating a sort of metaphysical composition. This Sharp black & white will be the entire palette of the film, following the coloration of the ivory keys that predominantly take the frame over. He caresses them, infusing life into every touch, sometimes gentle, sometimes resolute, freeing his melodies from the instrument. He doesn’t simply play the songs, but rather he interprets them, subtly smiling or showing pain, depending on the piece.

Thanks to all that, Sakamoto establishes a dialogue that transcends language, and can speak to everyone. Director Neo Sora immortalises the perfect concert film, and his camera never feels intrusive nor breaks the spell of being witnessing a live performance. At times, Sakamoto needs a break or feels the need to start a song again, and the sound recording is so crisp that you can even hear him breathing throughout, clever touches that underline the musician’s presence over his timeless pieces. Because this is not a compilation, but rather Sakamoto’s spiritual testament, the songs he selected to perform once more and say goodbye with.

Close your eyes, and drift away, lulled as Ryuchi plays. He’s in the theatre with us, we’re in the room with him. And he’s playing for us, but also for himself, to hear his creations one last time. Towards the end, when the graceful notes of his most famous song echo in the studio, the soundtrack for Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, I think all the audience got something in their eyes.

Not a fly dared to buzz in the cinema; when a phone rang, the owner was promptly crucified by ferocious stares.

Ryūichi Sakamoto’s Opus is monumental, and puts you at peace with the world.


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