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Review: The stirring ‘Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda’ evokes composer’s creativity and mortality

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Ryuichi Sakamoto in the documentary “Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda.”
(MUBI)

The intimate documentary “Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda” finds the accomplished composer in a deeply introspective place in both his life and career.

Filmed over a period of several years during which time the iconic musician and vocal anti-nuclear activist was first diagnosed with Stage 3 throat cancer (he’s currently in remission), this gorgeous looking and sounding production offers rewarding insights into the creative process.

While dutifully chronicling Sakamoto’s musical journey from co-founder of the ’80s techno-pop outfit Yellow Magic Orchestra to writing acclaimed movie scores for Nagisa Oshima’s “Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence,” Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Last Emperor” and, most recently, Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s “The Revenant,” director Stephen Nomura Schible supplements the nicely chosen clips with something even more resonant.

Whether it’s showing Sakamoto, now 66, attempting to coax some agreeable notes out of a piano that had been swept away in the 2012 tsunami or, some years later, striving to write more personally meaningful music as he attempts to regain his strength despite a daunting daily pill regimen, Schible’s thoughtfully articulate subject endearingly charts an uncertain future.

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In interposing haunting footage of the destructive wake of the Fukushima tragedy with Sakamoto’s evident, childlike delight in coming up with the perfect tonal combinations, the film serves as a stirringly poetic meditation on the pursuit of creation in the face of mortality.

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‘Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda’

In English and Japanese with English subtitles

Not rated

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Running time: 1 hour, 42 minutes

Playing: Starts Friday, Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills

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