My film before this one, Ukrainian Donbass, was an unrelenting, grubby onslaught of caricature, corruption and violence. Following it with 100 minutes with Ryuichi Sakamoto was like a balm for the heart and soul.
Sakamoto is known by many as the composer of the instantly recognisable score to Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence (1983) and for his portrayal in that film of Captain Yonoi. This began a career in film for the composer, both as an occasional actor and as the creator of scores for many films, including The Last Emperor (1987), The Sheltering Sky (1990) and The Revenant (2015). His music can be heard in films spanning three decades and as recently as Call Me by Your Name.
Rather than being a series of talking heads, Coda travels a meandering and meditative path, from Sakamoto’s concern for the environment and the aftermath of Fukushima to his diagnosis with throat cancer and resulting reevaluation of his life and work. It is held together by Sakamoto’s engaging nature, his simple forthrightness and wide-eyed joy as he travels the world collecting sounds. It was a delight to see him performing with the Yellow Magic Orchestra and contrast it with the mature and contemplative man he is now.
Like all good documentaries, Coda taught me about the man and his work but, more importantly, I left the cinema with a heightened appreciation and awareness of the world around me. As Sakamoto says, in the words of Paul Bowles in The Sheltering Sky, “Life is not an in exhaustible well.”
Have you seen this film? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.