‘Anger compels me forward’: Drive My Car composer Eiko Ishibashi on evil, experimentation and exploding genre

Her score for Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s opus helped it to Oscar glory. Now the Japanese musician has reunited with its director for a collaboration unlike any other

Whether it’s Hitchcock and Herrmann, Spielberg and Williams or latterly Villeneuve and Zimmer, film directors often get into a glorious feedback loop with a preferred composer – and the latest is a burgeoning collaboration between Ryûsuke Hamaguchi and Eiko Ishibashi. Her jazz-pop theme for Drive My Car in 2021 was an instant classic – wistful, generous of spirit, even a little Gallic with its touch of accordion – and her score helped to carry the Japanese film to glory at Cannes and beyond, including a best picture nomination and best international feature film award at the Oscars in 2022.

“There was a big awards rush, festivals, and I think Hamaguchi was ultimately quite fatigued from the whole experience,” Ishibashi says, elegantly wrapped up in her cold-looking recording studio in the Yatsugatake mountains west of Tokyo, speaking via interpeter over a video call. “So I think he wanted to do something that was more experimental next. And myself, I’m interested in experimenting with what kinds of work I can do along with images.”

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