Synopses & Reviews
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.”
"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." Publishers Weekly
"These conversations allow readers a peek behind the curtain to reveal a man as mysterious as his art." Carlos Orellana, Booklist
"Immensely stimulating....This book should be required reading for anyone working in film and a pleasurable option for moviegoers who wish to deepen and enrich the experience." John Boorman, The Los Angeles Times
"The Conversations provides fascinating insights into the technical and formal aspects of filmmaking, but it's also a pleasure to read....The most serious, exhaustive, and entertaining discourse with a master filmworker since Truffaut/Hitchcock." Richard Hell, Bookforum
"This is a sublime example of how to produce a fearsomely intelligent book about the aesthetics of film-making." Sunday Times (London)
"Here's one of the more interesting cross-disciplinary meetings of minds to hit book form in some time....[T]his is compulsive and compulsory reading for anyone in film school or interested in film history." NOW
"Readers with even a passing interest in the movies should find many pleasures here....The Conversations should be required reading for every aspiring writer and anyone else involved in learning to shape a work of art." Quill & Quire
"It's not often that a quick read provides so much insight." The Ottawa Citizen
"It is the movie book of the season, in fact, the movie book for every season....What the book sparks, aside from rarely probed thoughts about editing, is a desire to see again the movies Murch has edited and to do this at home hand in hand with reading it." The Toronto Star
From one of our most celebrated novelists, here are Michael Ondaatje's conversations with the film and sound editor Walter Murch. Their exchange reveals behind-the-scenes glimpses of the directors Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Philip Kaufman, Anthony Minghella, and Fred Zinnemann, and inside talk on how a film is put together and how editing differs in film and writing. Equally at ease talking about films, music, medieval architecture, or quantum physics, Murch has worked on such iconic films as the reconstructed Touch of Evil, The Godfather IIII, Apocalypse Now (and Apocalypse Now Redux), The Conversation, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and The English Patient.
About the Author
Michael Ondaatje is the author of four previous novels, a memoir, and eleven books of poetry. His most recent novel, Anil's Ghost
, won the Governor General's Award, the Giller Prize, the Prix Medicis, and the Irish Times
Literature Prize. Born in Sri Lanka, he came to Canada in 1963 and apart from his books has made two documentary films. He lives in Toronto.
Walter Murch, a film and sound editor, has won three Academy Awards. He lives outside San Francisco.