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Kore-Eda on Getting the Late Great Ryuichi Sakamoto to Score Monster


A scene from Kore-Eda’s Monster (Well GO USA/Toho)

Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-Eda — known familiarly in North America as “Kore-Eda” — has been making films in his native country for decades, but he’s gotten much more attention in the States since his 2018 film, Shoplifters, received an Oscar nomination in the International Feature category.

He continues to be one of his country’s more prolific filmmakers, often receiving accolades from American film critics for his touching stories of human relationships in films, such as Like Father, Like SonBrokerStill Walking; and many more.

What’s particularly fascinating about his latest, Monster, is Kore-Eda managed to get the great Oscar-winning Composer Ryuichi Sakamoto to provide a score. If there’s any doubt Sakamoto-san, who sadly passed away in March earlier this year, continued to be one of the finest film composers until the very end, then Monster is a fine example of what his music brings to a film steeped with emotions.

Ryuichi Sakamoto (Neo Sora/Kab Inc.)

“Of course, I knew about the great star Sakamoto Ryuichi, from when I was a student, and I was really very attracted to his music,” Kore-Eda told Above the Line‘s Edward Douglas in a recent interview. “It’s not as if we had a close relationship. About 10 years ago, I approached him to score a film for me, so we met several times to discuss that, but that project was shut down, it never was realized. I wanted to work with him, of course, since that time, and this time, I was the one who asked him if he would be able to work on the film. I wasn’t sure how serious or how debilitating his illness was. At first. I didn’t get a response from him, and then I decided I would keep asking. I wrote him a letter and then added some of his music to the letter to suggest that this is the kind of thing I’m thinking of with a clip. A couple of weeks later, I got a response that he would be able to work somewhat on the film.”

Kore-Eda was able to show Sakamoto an early cut of the film before his passing ahead of its Canne premiere, but we were told that tragically, he never got to see the final mixed version with all the dialogue to see how beautifully his music enhances the story.

You can read the rest of the interview with Kore-Eda over at Above the Line sometime in the New Year. Monster is still playing in select theaters across the country.

Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas
Edward Douglas has written about movies for print and the internet for over 20 years, specializing in box office analysis, reviews, and interviews. Currently, he writes features for Below the Line and Above the Line, acting as Associate Editor for the former and Interim Editor for the latter.
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