SIFF Face the Music 2018 Review: Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda

Matthew Howland

Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda
(Japan | 2017 | 100 minutes | Stephen Nomura Schible)

Festival Screenings:
TUESDAY, MAY 29 7 PM | AMC Pacific Place
WEDNESDAY, MAY 30 345 PM | SIFF Cinema Uptown
FRIDAY, JUNE 9 1230 PM | SIFF Cinema Uptown

Ryuichi Sakamoto, noted Japanese composer and musician, is the ideal subject for a documentary. For four decades, Sakamoto has been on the cutting edge of modern music, ushering in the rise of synth-pop with Yellow Magic Orchestra, and collaborating with artists as disparate as David Byrne, David Sylvain, Youssou N'Dour, and Arto Lindsay. Sakamoto's extensive composition work has earned him an Oscar (for 1987's The Last Emperor) and two Golden Globes. Luckily for viewers of Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda, which screens during SIFF's Face the Music Series, simply watching Sakamoto exist is fascinating enough to sustain a documentary.  Following his diagnosis with throat cancer, Sakamoto retreated from the public eye, eventually releasing the gorgeous, lucid Async in 2017. Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda follows the musician during this period of serious illness, forced to directly confront encroaching mortality, as well as the recent natural disasters that befell his native Japan. 

Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda jumps between still interviews with the artist and carefully curated archival footage. However, even as the film acknowledges the momentous nature of Sakamoto's achievements, it treats him foremost as human, his daily routines given careful consideration and treatment. This approach deserves much credit and admiration and speaks to the strength of director Stephen Nomura Schible. Though Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda is remarkably his debut film, it feels like the product of a great understanding between the director and musician. One will leave the film energized by watching the elegance and practice of Sakamoto's creative process and by the artist's humanity.

Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda has previously screened at various film festivals, including the prestigious Venice Film Festival.

KEXP is a proud co-sponsor of the "Face the Music" series at the 2018 Seattle International Film Festival, running May 17 - June 10 in various theatres across the area. Follow along with all our coverage throughout the festival here.

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