Thoughtful Music Documentary

Oscar-winning composer Ryuichi Sakamoto has been a pioneering musician for decades, first making a name for himself as the keyboardist in Yellow Magic Orchestra (think the Japanese version of Radiohead). Sakamoto has been a huge activist figure in Japan’s growing movement against nuclear power. He’s risen to prominence in the West due to work scoring films such as The Last Emperor and The Revenant. The cutting-edge composer has crafted a unique sound that often marries piano with synthesizers and other electronic touches, creating remarkable sonic textures.

Director Stephen Nomura Schible’s wide-ranging Ryuichi Sakamoto: CODA captures a personal, intimate side of Sakamoto and his creative process. Part life journey, part insight into his artistic mind, Coda is a lovely and understanding glimpse into Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Ryuichi Sakamoto: CODA is a calm portrait of a gifted musician grappling with his impending mortality

Dealing with the aftermath of cancer, the private, up-close view of the esteemed composer reveals a thoughtful musician reflecting on his legacy. The documentary loosely covers the many facets of Sakamoto’s career, mostly jumping around different eras without going overboard. One gets a fine sense of Sakamoto’s creative process.

Most interesting is hearing Sakamoto reveal his working process through anecdotes and even first-hand footage. There’s an amusing bit he shares working with Bertolucci on The Sheltering Sky. When the famed director disliked the original piece of music Sakamoto had scored for one scene and demanded he change it, Sakamoto told him it was not possible on such short notice. Bertolucci said Morricone could have done it, so Sakamoto went outside and hurriedly came up with a new piece in 30 minutes for the movie’s opening scene. Apparently both men ended up satisfied by the new piece.

Ryuichi Sakamoto: CODA is a calm portrait of a gifted musician grappling with his impending mortality the only way he knows how, creating music that will outlast him. Smoothly crafted around the composer’s music and intimate personal musings, the documentary sings with a quiet passion for its subject. Candid and revealing, rarely does a music icon let this much of himself all hang out for the world.

Video

Working with MUBI, Kino Lorber gives Ryuichi Sakamoto: CODA an excellent presentation on Blu-ray. The 1.78:1 video is from a mix of sources like most documentaries, mostly featuring quality HD footage shot over the past decade.

Sharp with impressive definition and clarity, the recent footage following Sakamoto himself has that clean Hi-Def essence common to music documentaries. A few snippets of archival concert footage dating back to the 1980s holds up fairly well in picture quality.

The main feature runs 101 minutes on a BD-50, receiving a professional and transparent AVC encode with no artifacts. This is a perfect replication of the documentary’s quality digital master.

Audio

The documentary’s primary 5.1 DTS-HD MA Japanese audio is more capable than one might expect with full attention paid to the surround channels and LFE. The full soundstage provides a nice touch of immersion and atmosphere when necessary.

Dialogue is crisply delivered, nicely balanced between the music and environmental sounds. Sakamoto’s music is heard in sweeping fashion with full dynamic range and no limiting. The discrete audio design has stellar channel separation and superb imaging.

Optional English and English SDH subtitles play in a white font. A secondary 2.0 DTS-HD MA track in stereo is available.

Extras

It’s nice seeing MUBI work with Kino Lorber getting this excellent documentary out on physical media in a high-quality release.

Anyone that appreciates the moving music of Ryuichi Sakamoto will love the bonus “concert” included on this BD. It’s a live recording in front of a quiet audience. Abstract visuals play in sync with the music on a large screen hung above his piano. While you may not watch the documentary more than once, the concert is a musical performance that can be enjoyed over and over.

Ryuichi Sakamoto: CODA Trailer (02:09 in HD)

Ryuichi Sakamoto: async Live At The Park Avenue Armory (65:10 in HD; 5.1 DTS-HD MA) – The small, intimate 2018 concert performance in New York City was captured on video by director Stephen Nomura Schible. The composer’s music receives an electrifying delivery in this often stunning performance. A large screen display hanging over Sakamoto has abstract visuals dance in unison with the music. The A/V quality is immaculate, heard in a fully engaging surround mix with excellent dynamic range.

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

An intimate, personal portrayal of esteemed composer and musician Ryuichi Sakamoto that delves into more than just his musical accomplishments.

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