The Conversations by Michael Ondaatje
Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film

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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.”

From the Trade Paperback edition.

About Michael Ondaatje

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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.From the Trade Paperback edition.
Published January 1, 2002 by Vintage Canada. 339 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for The Conversations

Publishers Weekly

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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.

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AV Club

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In a little more than 100 years, film has assumed such a profoundly influential role in world culture that it's sometimes difficult to remember...

Oct 11 2002 | Read Full Review of The Conversations: Walter Mur...

Entertainment Weekly

They met during the making of the movie version of his novel, whereupon the writer discovered what cinema cognoscenti have known for decades: Murch was responsible for some of the most inspired audiovisual raptures in ''American Graffiti'' (the found-sound use of radios in the background), the ''...

Sep 13 2002 | Read Full Review of The Conversations: Walter Mur...


Walter Murch offers vivid, step-by-step explanations of the thought processes behind editing choices in such films as "The Godfather" (he did sound for all three), "Touch of Evil" (he edited the 1998 re-release that restored Orson Welles' original cut), and "Return to Oz" (his underrated 1985 deb...

Oct 04 2002 | Read Full Review of The Conversations: Walter Mur...

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