The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film

The Conversations is a treasure, essential for any lover or student of film, and a rare, intimate glimpse into the worlds of two accomplished artists who share a great passion for film and storytelling, and whose knowledge and love of the crafts of writing and film shine through.

It was on the set of the movie adaptation of his Booker Prize-winning novel, The English Patient, that Michael Ondaatje met the master film and sound editor Walter Murch, and the two began a remarkable personal conversation about the making of films and books in our time that continued over two years. From those conversations stemmed this enlightened, affectionate book — a mine of wonderful, surprising observations and information about editing, writing and literature, music and sound, the I-Ching, dreams, art and history.

The Conversations is filled with stories about how some of the most important movies of the last thirty years were made and about the people who brought them to the screen. It traces the artistic growth of Murch, as well as his friends and contemporaries — including directors such as Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Fred Zinneman and Anthony Minghella — from the creation of the independent, anti-Hollywood Zoetrope by a handful of brilliant, bearded young men to the recent triumph of Apocalypse Now Redux.

Among the films Murch has worked on are American Graffiti, The Conversation, the remake of A Touch of Evil, Julia, Apocalypse Now, The Godfather (all three), The Talented Mr. Ripley, and The English Patient.

“Walter Murch is a true oddity in Hollywood. A genuine intellectual and renaissance man who appears wise and private at the centre of various temporary storms to do with film making and his whole generation of filmmakers. He knows, probably, where a lot of the bodies are buried.”

Nanci Arvizu, Writing and Reviews Editor

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3 Comments

  1. Intelligent, articulate, surprisingly good 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…

  2. The Art and Science of Film Editing From a True Master The film editor is the great unsung hero of the filmmaking process. After all, during the annual Oscar ceremony, the award for Best Film Editing seems to be hidden away between bad production numbers and some indecipherable technical award. As directors like Francis Ford Coppola and Anthony Minghella constantly receive praise for their creative visions, it is obviously the film editor’s onerous task to make sense of that vision and capture the key moments and sounds that define it. Film editor…

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