YIDFF 2023 Opening Film
Ryuichi Sakamoto | Opus

JAPAN / 2023 / Japanese / B&W / DCP / 103 min

Director: Sora Neo
Photography: Bill Kirstein
Editing: Kawakami Takuya
Music Mixed & Mastered by: ZAK
Music Composed and Performed by: Sakamoto Ryuichi
Producers: Sora Norika, Albert Tholen, Masubuchi Aiko, Eric Nyari
Production Company, Source: KAB America Inc. / KAB Inc.
World Sales: Film Constellation (except for Japan)

Musician and artist Sakamoto Ryuichi passed away in March 2023. Though battling illness, he mustered his remaining strength to perform and record a solo concert at NHK’s 509 Studio in September 2022—featuring just him and a grand piano. He selected twenty works to play, that trace his border-defying trajectory, including “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence,” a piece from his last album 12, and “Tong Poo,” which he played as a solo piano piece for the first time. The film captures his fingers on the keyboard, his breath, and his hands etched with the life he lived. The director and film crew, in whom Sakamoto placed his complete trust, meticulously planned the shots and created a rigorous and intimate cinematic space that feels like a one-of-a-kind treasure.

[Director’s Statement] When Sakamoto Ryuichi entered the historic NHK 509 Studio to play the piano, I just made sure to be present and record it. For Sakamoto, the piano was not only the instrument with which he had the longest relationship with but also a symbol of modernity and the Western musical system that he was critical of throughout his life. To be free of the twelve-tone equal temperament of the piano, he turned his attention to non-Western music, electronic music, and noise. Yet, the instrument always existed by his side as an extension of his body—a constant reminder of his own contradictions. When I listened closely to this composer who was performing his own paradoxes, I heard all kinds of vibrant sounds emerge from the bodies of both the instrument and the performer, transcending the twelve tones of the piano. Making sure to preserve the physicality and the frictions present in the performance, I strove to capture each note and all of the things that happened in between.

Sora Neo

Born in New York City, raised in New York and Tokyo, Sora Neo is a filmmaker, artist, and translator living between the two cities. He wrote and directed The Chicken (2020, Locarno International Film Festival 2020, New York Film Festival 2020), which was praised in publications such as Variety and Cahiers du Cinéma. Recently, Filmmaker Magazine named Sora one of the 25 New Faces of Independent Film. An alumnus of the 2017 Berlinale Talents Tokyo and the 2022 Sundance Screenwriters and Directors Lab programs, Sora is in production for his debut fiction feature as a writer-director.