Piano wizard Ryuichi Sakamoto receives a slightly premature Coda

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      A documentary by Stephen Schible. In English and Japanese, with English subtitles. Rating unavailable

      Piano wizard Ryuichi Sakamoto could be one of the most influential musicians you’ve heard but never heard of. His early adoption of synthesizers and flair for sleek imagery came to the fore in the 1970s, mainly through his trio Yellow Magic Orchestra, which combined Eno-style ambience with dance moves, world-beat rhythms, and techno-pop hooks that heavily coloured the flock of Anglo bands of the ’80s, as well as keyboard-centred hip-hop outfits.

      Sakamoto’s biggest breakthrough came in contributions to cinema, most fully in 1983, in Nagisa Oshima’s Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence. It featured not only his unforgettable musical theme, but the composer himself, playing a conflicted camp commandant opposite prisoner of war David Bowie. He subsequently supplied sweeping scores to Bernardo Bertolucci epics The Sheltering Sky and The Last Emperor, with the latter winning him an Academy Award, among other prizes. He also did soundtracks for Oliver Stone, Brian De Palma, and Pedro Almodóvar, and garnered major film-score nominations as recently as 2015, for The Revenant.

      Along the way, Sakamoto scored ballets and Olympic ceremonies, and collaborated with artists as varied as David Byrne, Madonna, Youssou N’Dour, and David Sylvian (of the band Japan, no less). But the teamwork he most misses, according to what he says in the deceptively titled Coda, is with Bowie. After hitting it off spectacularly, they kept leaving each other phone messages over the decades but never quite reconnected.

      This CV stuff is worth mentioning because it’s only alluded to in Stephen Schible’s intimate, emotional, and surprisingly small-scaled profile. The Tokyo-born director is best known for coproducing Lost in Translation, and knowledge of his country’s geographical and cultural landscapes comes in handy as he follows Sakamoto at home and abroad, on various creative pursuits including solo-piano music, electronic experiments, classical compositions, and thorny new music with materials found in the post-Fukushima wastelands.

      We learn little about his personal life, except that the musician, now 66, is also a long-time antinuclear activist. His floppy dark hair is now an elegant white mop, and in this decade he’s been battling his own atomic breakdown, in the form of smoking-related cancer. It’s now in remission, and that title happily has more to do with music than mortality.