VENICE--Ryuichi Sakamoto looks back on his illustrious musical career and is not entirely happy with what he sees.

He even questions the tunes he produced for movies that earned him international accolades and coveted prizes.

“They are fine as compositions, but I am now dubious whether they were good as film scores,” he said in a recent interview.

“Ryuichi Sakamoto: CODA,” a documentary by Stephen Nomura Schible, was screened at the 74th Venice International Film Festival in the Out of Competition category on Sept. 3.

The film follows the musician-composer over five years from 2012, showing him at work and in his anti-nuclear activities. It also features archival scenes, including footage that Sakamoto laughingly says he wished had ended up on the cutting floor.

Sakamoto, 65, made a name for himself in the late 1970s as a member of electronic music band Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO). He achieved global fame when he won the Academy Award for Best Original Score for “The Last Emperor” in 1987 directed by Bernardo Bertolucci.

Also on Sept. 3 at the Venice International Film Festival, a 4K version of “The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice” in 1952 by Yasujiro Ozu was screened.

At a discussion event before the screening, Sakamoto said he “didn’t like the background music used in Ozu films” so he wanted to remake the soundtracks one day. But now, he said, he has “realized it was wrong thinking.”

After the screening of the Ozu classic, The Asahi Shimbun interviewed Sakamoto for his thoughts on his film scores, his early career, the documentary, and nuclear power generation.

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Asked about his remark concerning Ozu’s films, Sakamoto explained that it was a topic that he and composer Toru Takemitsu, who produced the scores for many Japanese films, talked about more than 20 years ago.

“We loved Ozu films, but we thought the music was too boring compared to the aesthetics of the cinematography,” he said. “But I now realized that the ‘ordinariness’ was the result of a thorough calculation.

“Of course, it is not my favorite kind of music. But what type of music does a film require the most? A composer’s personal tastes should not intrude on that.”

The Academy Award-winning composer said the experience of creating the soundtrack for Yoji Yamada’s “Nagasaki: Memories of My Son,” released in 2015, was a key factor in why he changed his mind about the music in Ozu films.

“Yamada is the last film director who knows Shochiku Production during Ozu’s time. I participated in the project to give my homage to the golden age of the Japanese film industry, so to speak. I deliberately created the soundtrack to sound like music in old Shochiku films--music that acts as a stage set, reflecting the atmosphere of the scenes.”

In the “CODA” documentary, Sakamoto mentioned that he is able to “expand his potential exactly because of the strict orders in film music production.”

“The deadline is tight, and all film directors are dictators,” he explained. “I am a lazy person, so I don’t work unless someone with strong charisma like them tells me to ‘do it.’

“I can only create my music when they give me a theme to work on.”

Sakamoto also said he is not totally happy with his past accomplishments, such as his scores for “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence” in 1983 and “The Last Emperor.”

“They are fine as compositions, but I am now dubious whether they were good as film scores. On the other hand, there is a different way of thinking that a film needs music that can leave a strong impression on the audience, even if it makes the film off-balanced.”

Asked about his experience of judging films in the Venice film festival four years ago, Sakamoto said the works that he liked all had no background music.

“I watched 40 films during the festival. There were three films I liked, but all of them had no music at all. It was only a coincidence, though.

“Meanwhile, there were scores that were very well-made, and the quality of recording was great, but the music itself was too banal and spoiled the films. I thought, ‘There is no room for mundane film music anymore,’” he said.

In the “CODA” documentary, Sakamoto once tried to distance himself from traditional European musical instruments, such as the piano, saying he wants to “free music.”

“I had been making music with a piano, which is made of materials such as wood and metal artificially distorted by technology. I wanted to return music made from artificial means back to nature.

“But if I completely put it back to nature, there would be nothing left for me to do. I am torn between nature and artificiality. I bet there is no right answer.

Sakamoto said a return to “prehistoric times” is, of course, impossible, and that it was a “natural path of the world” to end up where we are now. He said he feels pessimistic about technology but still wants to use it in a positive way.

“I consider recent technologies, such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence, to be largely trivial because I had created such archetypes about 20 years ago,” he said. “We need to aim to use technology to serve our needs, not the other way around.”

The documentary shows parts of an interview with Sakamoto when he was a member of YMO.

“Computers can do everything for us. Humans no longer need to practice for 10 or 20 years to master a complicated phrase of a musical piece,” he said in the old interview.

Asked to explain that comment, Sakamoto said: “In those years, I deliberately belittled computers, saying, ‘I am not relying on computers. I am the one who allows them to play music.’

“At the same time, I said, ‘Humans cannot play this phrase,' and then I demonstrated that I can play it (in front of the camera). … I was a terrible person who was showing off.

“If I could meet (myself from back then), I would hit him,” said Sakamoto, laughing. “I can’t believe the director (Schible) chose that footage from the interview, of all things.”

Sakamoto said he can never create music like he used to.

He said he could work for Bertolucci, who demanded scores for “The Last Emperor” in a very short period, “only because I was young.”

“I can’t do it now. That goes the same for the works of YMO. When I hear those pieces now, the sounds are that of a young man--reckless and outrageous. But I thought back then it was the ‘state of the art technology.’

“The music I could make in my 20s is rightfully different from what I can make in my 40s, 60s and maybe 80s. I am glad to have aged to this day.”

In recent years, Sakamoto has become a vocal figure in the anti-nuclear movement.

The documentary follows his visit to an area affected by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, which triggered the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, and his participation in an anti-nuclear demonstration.

“Nuclear power plants are located on every corner of Japan, so something like the Fukushima accident could happen everywhere. A long time has passed since the 2011 disaster, but the majority of people remain negative about nuclear power,” Sakamoto said.

He said opportunities for the public to voice concerns about nuclear energy have decreased, but people would gather if given the chance.

“On the other hand, Internet rightists, the government, their followers, and some media organizations have become very conservative. I wonder why things have gotten so extreme,” he said.

North Korea conducted a nuclear test on Sept. 3, just days after Pyongyang fired a ballistic missile over the northern main Japanese island of Hokkaido.

“It is absurd that the Japanese government, which is agitating people over the North Korean crisis, is not seeking to halt operations of these nuclear power plants.”

Sakamoto warned that it would require only a light plane, not a missile, to wreak havoc on a nuclear plant.

“I want this society to become one where no musician has to voice concerns. I am organizing anti-nuclear events every year with my musician friends, but I am hoping for a society where we no longer need to hold such events,” he said.

Sakamoto said that because he has become aware of current issues, he will continue to raise his voice when he comes across them.

“If I had remained ignorant, I would probably have been able to live more peacefully, though,” he said.

Sakamoto said the only thing he requested of the director of the documentary was to keep the film short.

“As a film buff, however great the film is, I would get bored of a long movie and fall asleep. … So I just told the director to ‘keep it short anyhow.’ The rest was left to him.”

The 100-minute film opens in Japan in November.

Schible said it was difficult to reduce the length because Sakamoto has many different periods, like Picasso.

Sakamoto is currently working on a South Korean film for the first time.

“It (South Korea) is a nation where millions of citizens hit the road to push a president out of office. Their films are also full of power,” he said.