Beginning May 5
Metrograph In Theater
RYUICHI SAKAMOTO: A CELEBRATION
Metrograph Honors the Late Composer and Pioneering Musician
Featuring Apichatpong Weerasethakul in attendance for a special screening & first U.S. album-listening event for async surround, Sakamoto’s 2017 opus with visuals by long-time collaborator Shiro Takatani
Metrograph presents Ryuichi Sakamoto: A Celebration, a series showcasing the groundbreaking musical talents of the late award-winning composer, beginning May 5 at Metrograph In Theater.
A titanic force in contemporary art and music, Ryuichi Sakamoto managed throughout his working life to combine popular acclaim with serious-minded artistic ambition: while enjoying chart-topping successes as a member of synth-pop innovators Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO), Sakamoto would simultaneously pursue a solo career as a composer of experimental electronic music. Sakamoto’s career in film scoring began auspiciously with his work on Nagisa Ōshima’s 1983 Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, in which he also starred opposite David Bowie and Takeshi Kitano. The music of Mr. Lawrence, which combines synthesizers, orchestral arrangements, and traditional Japanese instruments, was immediately recognized as a major accomplishment and marked the beginning of a remarkable 40-year run of film scoring that saw Sakamoto collaborate with such directors as Bernardo Bertolucci, Pedro Almodóvar, Jun Ichikawa, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and Alejandro G. Iñárritu. Always a musical pioneer, never content with the commonplace, Sakamoto’s film work was only one facet of his extraordinary creative life, but it would have been more than enough by itself to make him a legend.
The series will welcome special guests to Metrograph, including Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who will be in attendance on May 7 to present a special screening of his short, first light, alongside the three films that would win the async short film competition, a 2017 collaboration between Weerasethakul and Sakamoto launched in conjunction with the release of Sakamoto’s album by the same name. Following the screening, for the first time in the United States, an async surround (Ryuichi Sakamoto + Shiro Takatani) album-listening event will take place in the theater.
Titles include the special async screening and event, The Last Emperor, Love is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, The Revenant, Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda, and a new transfer of Tony Takitani, which will be doing a week-long run In Theater.
Sakamoto’s audiovisual series incomplete can be experienced in Metrograph’s lobby from May 5 to May 26. Contributors include Alva Noto, Lenzan Kudo, Christian Fennesz, and Laurie Anderson. Incomplete pairs Sakamoto’s new compositions with video art by New York collective Zakkubalan.
“In these times when things are not ‘normal,’ I wanted to document the sensations I’ve been feeling. I invited a few of my musician friends to do this with me. I wanted to share the results with you all.” —Ryuichi Sakamoto
SAKAMOTO’S ASYNC PRESENTED BY WEERASETHAKUL
For one night only, visionary Thai filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul will be in attendance at 7 Ludlow to honor the late Ryuichi Sakamoto—a dear friend and collaborator—with a special tribute screening of Apichatpong’s 2017 short aysnc – first light, a deeply moving joint work from Apichatpong and Sakamoto, which was launched in conjunction with the release of Sakamoto’s 2017 acclaimed album by the same name, and which features close friends, amongst them Tilda Swinton, recording themselves whilst they fall asleep. The film screens alongside the three titles that would go on to win the async short film competition: Sandup Rongkup’s In a Happy Place (chosen by Apichatpong), Mikhail Basov’s Poetry of Banality (chosen by Sakamoto), and the Audience Award-winner, J. K.Wang’s Shosho ni mitsu.
Following the screening, an async surround album-listening event will take place for the first time ever in the United States. From inception, Sakamoto had envisioned a surround-sound version of his 2017 album. This expanded surround version, created in collaboration with Shiro Takatani, poignantly brings that vision to life, playing inside the theater, in 5.1 channel surround sound.
THE LAST EMPEROR
dir. Bernardo Bertolucci, 1987, 163 min, DCP
Sakamoto, his work featured alongside that of David Byrne and Cong Su, composed nine of the 15 original pieces on the soundtrack of Bertolucci’s film, a dazzlingly lavish, non-linear biopic on the decadent early life, love, and ignoble exile of Pu Yi (John Lone), China’s last ruling emperor, much of it shot on location in Beijing’s Forbidden City. A meeting between traditional Chinese instrumentation and contemporary avant-garde sensibilities, Sakamoto, Byrne, and Su’s soundtrack would win Best Original Score at the 60th Academy Awards.
LOVE IS THE DEVIL: STUDY FOR A PORTRAIT OF FRANCIS BACON
dir. John Maybury, 1998, 87 min, DCP
Derek Jacobi stars as Francis Bacon in Maybury’s experimental biopic of the revolutionary painter, inspired by the authorized biography The Gilded Gutter Life of Francis Bacon and employing distorted visuals that approximate the tormented grotesquerie of the subject’s canvases, which focuses on Bacon’s tumultuous relationship with his penny-ante East End hoodlum muse George Dyer (a pre-Bond Daniel Craig, in his breakthrough role). Sakamoto’s drone and noise-heavy score adds immeasurably to the overall sense of disgust and disorientation in a film that endeavors not just to recap the facts of Bacon’s life, but to filter them through his anguished vision.
New Transfer from Strand Releasing.
MERRY CHRISTMAS, MR. LAWRENCE
dir. Nagisa Ôshima, 1983, 123 min, 35mm
Sakamoto’s first film score was for Ōshima’s taut World War II-set drama in which the musician also starred as Captain Yonoi, the bushido code-obsessed commandant of a Japanese POW camp in occupied Java who enters into a war of wills with unbreakable South African internee David Bowie, a conflict fraught with repressed, forbidden lust. In addition to proving himself a commanding, focused screen actor, Sakamoto delivered a plaintive, haunting score of delicate synths expressing the characters’ unspoken desires, its glass harp-sampling title track becoming a minor radio hit when matched with lyrics by David Sylvian and released as “Forbidden Colours.”
dir. Alejandro Iñárritu, 2016, 156 min, DCP
Electronic experimentalist Sakamoto may have seemed an unusual choice to score a Western set on the 1820s frontier, but Iñárritu’s choice to have him do so paid off dividends. Triumphantly returning to film composition after treatment for throat cancer, Sakamoto, in collaboration with Alva Noto and Bryce Dessner of The National, created a grandly glacial soundscape to accompany Leonardo DiCaprio’s gravely wounded fur trapper Hugh Glass on his agonizing, hallucinatory mission of vengeance, towards a climactic confrontation with rival Tom Hardy that unleashes a terrible, glorious burst of aural violence.
RYUICHI SAKAMOTO: CODA
dir. Stephen Nomura Schible, 2017, 100 min, DCP
A precious glimpse into the creative process of the late synth-pop star, film composer, and activist Ryuichi Sakamoto, Schible’s deeply affecting film picks up with its introspective subject as he returns to music-making after having been diagnosed with cancer, channeling his new awareness of his mortality into his latest work.
May 14 screening followed by Q&A with director Stephen Nomura Schible and writer Sadie Rebecca Starnes.
dir. Jun Ichikawa, 2004, 75 min, DCP
Based on a short story by Haruki Murakami, Ichikawa’s graceful, coolly elegant film tells the story—with the help of a drily detached third-person narrator—of the lonesome existence and sudden romantic awakening of its title character (Issey Ogata), who finds happiness in married life after years of isolation, with his only complaint that his lovely wife, Eiko (Rie Miyazawa), has a passion for designer clothes that threatens to drive a wedge between them… A sublimely sensitive work of sly social commentary, in a beautiful new transfer, with Ryuichi Sakamoto’s delicate score adding subtle emotional shading.
New Transfer from Strand Releasing.