978-0-676-97474-4 / 0676974740

The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film

by Michael Ondaatje

Publisher:Vintage Canada



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About the book:

Michael Ondaatje may be the only writer in the history of motion pictures to be happy with the film adaptation of his novel. During the production of that movie, The English Patient, he became friendly with the film's editor, Walter Murch. A few years later, looking to clear his head after seven years of labour on Anil's Ghost, Ondaatje embarked on a series of interviews with Murch. Murch is perhaps the best-known practitioner of an anonymous art, having been responsible for sound and/or picture editing for many of the landmark pictures of the 1970s, including the Godfather trilogy, American Graffiti, and Apocalypse Now. He's also a bit of a Renaissance man, a well-read iconoclast whom his frequent collaborator Francis Ford Coppola calls "the film world's one intellectual."

The Conversations is an appropriate title for the book (beyond its nod to one of Murch's most celebrated and personally resonant films, The Conversation), because of the friendly interplay between Ondaatje and Murch. Of the recent odd-couple film interview books (Cameron Crowe and Billy Wilder, Steven Soderbergh and Richard Lester), theirs is the most natural and comfortable pairing. Ondaatje's genial, sophisticated curiosity matches Murch's, and their discussions range from broad theories of art to the vital minutiae of their own work, such as Murch's search for a recording of "The Ride of the Valkyries" whose brassiness could match the acid blue of the ocean in Apocalypse Now's now-legendary helicopter invasion scene. In its solitary orchestration of narrative, Ondaatje argues, editing is "the stage of filmmaking&closest to the art of writing," and the discussions in The Conversations will appeal to anyone interested in art, writing, or film. But Murch is first and foremost a sound technician, and after hearing him talk about his work, you'll never listen to a movie in the same way again. --Tom Nissley

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