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R.I.P. Ryuichi Sakamoto

Written a few days after his death on Tuesday, 28th March 2023.

I’m actually quite shocked by this news. There’s a story here… It’s been a long time since I interviewed film people: these days it’s mostly reviews and a few features. Ryuichi Sakamoto was the very last person I interviewed face-to-face, in 1999 around the time of his BTTB and Cinemage albums. (I have since been privileged to write a piece about him again on the film Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda, 2017).

Before the interview took place, there was one huge problem: his interview schedule was full. “But don’t worry”, said the publicist looking after him, “if you can get yourself over to the BBC Studios in Maida Vale for 4pm, Jools Holland is due to interview him – and Jools Holland is always an hour or so late. So if you’re prepared to do that, you’ve got him for an hour or so.”

On this occasion, I knew I had the interview placed in Manga Max magazine (sadly, long since gone) via its then editor Jonathan Clements, so I went for it. Sure enough, Jools Holland wasn’t on time and I had a fascinating interview with Ryuichi Sakamoto for about an hour covering various aspects of his career up to that point in time, including his film soundtrack work and, among other things, the multimedia opera Life he’d recently been working on.… Read the rest

Features Live Action Movies

The Fortress
(Nam Han
San Seong,

Director – Hwang Dong-hyuk – 2017 – South Korea – 140m

**** 1/2

Korean period, winter war movie in which a besieged King, his court and his army decide whether to negotiate or fight as the enemy approaches – the opening film in the London East Asia Film Festival 2017

From its title you might assume that this big budget Korean offering was primarily a period war action epic more interested in spectacle and entertainment than anything else. In fact it’s an adaptation of contemporary writer Kim Hoon’s latest bestseller which explores a specific episode of history. The Fortress takes place in 1636, when King Injo of the Joseon Dynasty (Park Hae-il from The Host, Bong Joon-ho, 2006) was trapped in the mountain fortress of Namhan along with his ministers and court. It was winter and his army was suffering from exposure. To the South was the expansionist enemy Qing army advancing into territory hitherto under the protection of the Ming Empire.

At the start Kim Sang-hun (Kim Yun-seok), later revealed as Injo’s Minister of Rites, has a ferryman take him safely across the frozen river which is the route to Namhan. The old man bemoans his lack of payment for guiding others along the same route and wonders if the Qing will pay any better.… Read the rest