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The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film Paperback – Aug 31 2004

4.4 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Canada; 1 edition (Aug. 31 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0676976824
  • ISBN-13: 978-0676976823
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 2 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #16,885 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

From Amazon

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Ask most moviegoers, "Who is Walter Murch?" and they're likely to stare uncomprehendingly. Ondaatje (The English Patient) seeks to eradicate that ignorance by providing an expert analysis of Murch's consummate film editing skills, and pointing out along the way the monumental contributions editors make to motion pictures. Murch, a three time Oscar winner and integral collaborator on such cinematic milestones as The Godfather, Julia, The English Patient and American Graffiti, attended the University of Southern California with George Lucas and bonded early on with UCLA film student Francis Ford Coppola. A relative neophyte, he worked on Coppola's The Rain People and a low-budget sci-fi picture, THX 1138, which has since become a cult classic. Murch adhered to a rule of not watching other movies while concentrating on a project of his own, calling himself a "queen bee who gets impregnated once and can lay millions of eggs afterwards." Through his eyes, and Ondaatje's remarkably insightful questions and comments, readers see how intricate the process is, and understand Murch when he says, "The editor is the only one who has time to deal with the whole jigsaw. The director simply doesn't." He also offers insightful thoughts on Orson Welles, Marlon Brando and Fred Zinnemann. Although Murch claims the actors on his films rarely know who he is, this excellent, eye-opening book done in a question-and-answer format will make readers glad Ondaatje has shown them the significant role he plays behind the scenes. Photos.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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By A Customer on Oct. 9 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is awesome. You will not be disappointed if you are seriously interested in the under appreciated art of film editing. As a director myself, this book humbles and reminds me that the film is ultimately brought to life during the editing process and the editor is the mid-wife. Ondaatje asks all the right questions and allows Murch to reveal to us his thought process as well as his practical methods when cutting a film. Murch is an editor's editor. If you loved movies such as The Godfather 1 & 2, Apocalypse Now, The Conversation, and The English Patient Murch has had no small part in their success. Too often the director gets all the credit. Some of my favourite moments in the aforementioned films, moments that i used to credit the directors for, came from suggestions made by Murch. Murch is a modest man (as editor's need to be when working with the egos that most directors carry around).What's so amazing is that he continues to promote the idea that filmmaking IS a collaborative artform. The editor is just one of the many who brings a film to life. After reading this book you will know that the editor is one of the most essential collaborators. As Anthony Minghella describes, this is, "The Essential Mr. Murch."
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Format: Hardcover
Like the reviewer below, I was skeptical of the Q&A format - an approach that often tends to elicit fairly superficial dialog in the realm of film (with some notable exceptions, including the classic Hitchcock/Truffaut book). This is fine for a magazine article, but potentially painful for 300+ pages. That said, this book really surprised me - and within only a few pages I was totally hooked. Ondaatje manages to spur on a delightful conversation filled with some very profound insights on editing, filmmaking, and the creative process itself (with many interesting detours along the way). I think this book can be enjoyed by both amateur film enthusiast and cynical cinephile alike. To be honest, I found the book to be a better articulation of Murch's ideas than his own "In the Blink of an Eye" -- though I would still recommend that as a secondary text to Conversations. I would also suggest that anyone reading this try to see Murch's major works first: The Conversation, Apocalypse Now, the Godfather I & II, and the English Patient - as they are all referred to in fairly significant detail throughout the book, and it will make for a more enjoyable read if you're familiar with them.
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Format: Paperback
I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys good movies. If you actually make/edit/shoot/write movies then, this book is an essential. I was really astounded at how deep the art of editing goes. Murch explains in depth how sound (and the absence of a sound track) can change the viewers reactions to key scenes, and how create the right mood. He also explains 'natural' edits when the audience 'blinks' along with the actor or actress - sorry you have to read it to get it. He's worked on some really big movies and his knowledge is incredible on and off topic. But it's not a how-to-book, it really flows like a conversation between friends. An easy read.
Michael Ondaatje asks smart questions to Murch and offers interesting comparisons between literature and film. Yet I found him continually plugging and referring to his own work over and over - c'mon man we KNOW you wrote the English patient - I couldn't care less - it's no Godfather... ;)
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Format: Paperback
It is like being there having these conversations with them. There is a lot of interesting information about films, editing, directing and writing. Enjoy it!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I would recommend that anyone that likes movies should give this book a read. Full of interesting information on movies and great tips on editting them.
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