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In a cinematic ode to the legendary composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, the concert documentary “Ryuichi Sakamoto | Opus” has become a standout sensation following its premiere at the Venice Film Festival. This moving tribute to the iconic musician has now clinched a significant deal for theatrical distribution in North America, courtesy of Janus Films, just ahead of its eagerly awaited North American premiere at the prestigious New York Film Festival.
The poignant film will not merely grace the silver screen but will also find a place in the hearts of cinephiles on a Blu-ray Disc, set for release under the esteemed “Janus Contemporaries” label.
“Ryuichi Sakamoto | Opus” is a project helmed by director Neo Sora, who embarked on a journey to capture the final moments of a musical virtuoso facing the ultimate adversary, cancer. As Sakamoto’s health waned in the years leading up to his untimely passing on March 28, 2023, the prospect of live performances and extensive global tours became a distant dream. Yet, in late 2022, Sakamoto summoned the last reserves of his strength to gift the world a final performance—a concert film featuring him alone at his piano.
This cinematic masterpiece is a deeply personal endeavor curated by Sakamoto himself. It features 20 carefully chosen musical pieces that seamlessly narrate the story of his life through the medium he knew best—his music. The selection spans the entirety of his remarkable career, from his era as a pop star with Yellow Magic Orchestra to his soul-stirring film scores for classics like “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence” and “The Last Emperor,” culminating in his introspective final album, “12.”
Filmed in an intimate setting, one Sakamoto held close to his heart, and surrounded by his most trusted collaborators, the documentary offers a raw and soul-baring glimpse into the maestro’s inner world through his music. It is an artful reckoning with mortality, a final gift to an adoring world, and a poignant reminder of Sakamoto’s enduring legacy.
Variety’s Todd Gilchrist was effusive in his praise of the film after its Venice premiere, calling it “a glorious final performance” and “a gift to the world.” Indeed, it stands as both a commemoration of an extraordinary life and career and a testament to a performance so rich and sophisticated that it continues to inspire long after the credits roll.
Ryuichi Sakamoto’s career spanned more than four remarkable decades, during which he traversed musical genres with finesse, from techno-pop stardom to becoming an Oscar-winning film composer. His scores for acclaimed films such as “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence,” “The Last Emperor,” and “The Revenant” have left an indelible mark on the world of cinema. His versatility earned him an Oscar, a BAFTA, a Grammy, and two Golden Globes, cementing his place as a musical luminary.
The documentary “Ryuichi Sakamoto | Opus” is a testament to the dedication of its production team, including Norika Sora and Eric Nyari, who previously collaborated on “Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda” and “Ryuichi Sakamoto: async Live at the Park Avenue Armory.” Albert Tholen and Aiko Masubuchi join them as producers, while Academy Award-winning producer Jeremy Thomas, known for his work on classics like “The Last Emperor” and “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence,” serves as the film’s executive producer.
The North American distribution deal secured by Janus Films for “Ryuichi Sakamoto | Opus” is the latest milestone in the film’s journey, thanks to the efforts of London and Paris-based production, finance, and sales company Film Constellation. This announcement follows a string of successful international distribution deals, with the film finding its way to audiences in Spain (Filmin), Portugal (Midas Filmes), Germany, and Austria (Rapid Eye), as well as Scandinavia (NjutaFilms), the Baltics (Kino Pavasaris), South Korea (Media Castle), China (JL Vision Films), Hong Kong, and Macau (Edko Films), Taiwan (Cai Chang), and Singapore (Anticipate Pictures). Japanese audiences can anticipate its release in 2024, courtesy of Bitters End.
“Ryuichi Sakamoto | Opus” not only preserves the musical genius of Ryuichi Sakamoto but also stands as a testament to the enduring power of art to transcend the boundaries of time and mortality. As audiences eagerly await its North American premiere at the New York Film Festival, it is clear that this documentary will continue to resonate deeply with music lovers and cinephiles alike, reminding us all of the extraordinary legacy of a maestro who defied the limits of creativity throughout his illustrious career.