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As Japan’s most in-demand screen composer, Joe Hisaishi has worked with Takeshi Kitano, Hayao Miyazaki and other leading Japanese directors, in addition to performing in a variety of musical formats, from solo to orchestral concerts. His film music is, depending on taste, either maddeningly simple and repetitive (after a screening of “Kikujiro” at Cannes, a critic for Vogue told me he felt like driving the theme song out of his head with a hammer) or entrancingly melodic and atmospheric.

Most Japanese film fans are, evidently, of the latter opinion. Hisaishi, however, has more than a talent for easy-listening piano tunes, as he proves in “Quartet,” an ambitious attempt to create what he describes as “Japan’s first truly musical film.” He not only scored this drama about a no-hope string quartet trying for a last shot at fame and fortune, but also cowrote and directed it, both career-firsts.

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