The associate artist Ryuichi Sakamoto has made film music for over thirty films. He got his start in 1983 with the film Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence by film director Nagisa Oshima - a film he also played a role in himself, alongside David Bowie. He went on to compose soundtracks for Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor (1987), The Sheltering Sky (1990) and Little Buddha (1994), for Pedro Almodovar’s High Heels (1991), Oliver Stone’s Wild Palms (1993) and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant (2015). As well as for many smaller, but no less interesting films, like Tony Takitani (Jun Ichikawa, 2004).
The collaboration between the Holland Festival and associate artist Ryuichi Sakamoto is a reason for Eye to put the spotlight on Sakamoto’s impressive oeuvre of film music and the ways it continues to inspire new generations of (film) composers.
The Last Emperor
The music Sakamoto composed for Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor may not be his most innovative score, but it certainly brought him the most awards. Bertolucci was the first western filmmaker to be allowed into Beijing’s Forbidden City for his film about the last Chinese emperor. Sensibly, he engaged master cameraman Vittorio Storaro (Il Conformista, Apocalypse Now), which resulted in stunningly beautiful shots.
The music, too, had its part to play in the shower of awards lavished on the film. Sakamoto had to share his Oscar with Talking Heads lead singer David Byrne, who also composed a part of the music, and musician Cong Su, who made one contribution to the soundtrack.
Sakamoto and Byrne brilliantly integrated traditional Chinese instruments into their compositions. Apart from being orchestral and traditional, their contributions undeniably carry their stamp and that of their respective bands.