During the late 1960s and early '70s, a new generation of filmmakers began to emerge on the scene. Weaned on television and educated at film schools on the east (NYU) and west (UCLA, USC) coasts, these new visionaries gave the French term auteur - what may be now be referred to as "slash" credits; i.e., writer/director/producer - a decidedly American twist, creating films that were technically adventurous, often extremely personal, bursting with fresh ideas and perspectives, and above all, intelligently written. They all seemed to have taken Hitchcock's message to heart when he was supposed to have said, "The three most important elements of a film are ... the script, the script, and the script."
Mavericks at the time, they now represent some of the most respected names working in the cinema art form today. Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg are names of that generation with which the movie-going public is now so very familiar. Although their work has been behind the camera, they have become almost as well known as the movie stars who work in front of it. Although not so easily recognized, the name of Walter Murch is no less important than those of his more famous contemporaries. His skill as both a film and sound editor has been widely and justifiably lauded as being responsible for elevating some excellent films into the rarefied realm of ground-breaking masterpieces. His list of credits as sound designer and film editor reads like a most-distinguished roll-call of some of the most influential films of the last quarter-century. American Graffiti, The Godfather Part II, Julia, Ghost, and last year's Oscars dominating (Murch received two: sound editing and as film editor), The English Patient.
Two of his most memorable films have already been designated as modern classics. In Coppola's The Conversation, Murch, through the painstaking intricacy of his sound design, draws us into the spooky and secretive world of Gene Hackman's professional eavesdropper and holds us there, transfixed by snatches of whispered and overheard secrets. In fact, the sound in the film actually becomes an intriguing and forceful character by itself. Working again with Coppola in 1978/79, Murch created the hallucinatory and nightmarish aural texture for Apocalypse Now.
His Oscar-winning sound design plays much as a great symphony, so abundantly rich in nuance and detail that new jewels of creativity can be discovered each time the film is screened. While his name may not be so instantly recognizable as those of his fellow film artists, the multi-talented Murch is undeniably one of the seminal and dominant forces of his generation. - Pete Crane.
Don't miss the special Walter Murch Tribute event where we will screen The Conversation. Cinequest will also screen the following Murch gems: The English Patient , Julia, with As I See It, and Return To Oz.