WALTER MURCH WITH SPECIAL AWARD TO EDITOR!
Much has been said and written about the opening of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, but let us go back to it once more. It starts with a sound, difficult to recognize or place anywhere. Next, there appears an image – an almost-still shot of a jungle. The sound swells and, suddenly, a helicopter flies right before our eyes. It is time for the first accords of “The End” by The Doors that serve as both an accompaniment and commentary to what can be seen on the screen: smoke and flames start to devour the jungle. Another helicopter flies by, Jim Morrison's vocals appear, and the shot turns into a living napalm-induced hell, while the camera moves after the flying machines. This image of jungle-fever after an air raid serves as background to the superimposed shot of Captain Willard's (Martin Sheen) face, which gets interwoven in the seconds to come with shots of whirling helicopter's rotor and the jungle's conflagration, meaningfully displaying what happens in the soldier's mind. These first, intensively audiovisual, dialog-free minutes of Apocalypse Now convey the film's essence and foreshadow what is to come, it is no wonder, then, that this prologue is often cited as one of the best ever. And it was made largely by Walter Murch, the iconic editor and sound designer who, as we are exhilarated to announce, will come to Bydgoszcz in November to accept Camerimage Special Award.
Walter Murch, courtesy of
THE ROLEX MENTOR AND PROTÉGÉ ARTS INITIATIVE
Editing is not about gimmicky transitions from one scene to another, it deals with imbuing the given story with a rhythm and emotional tempo, while designing a film's soundtrack does not mean matching images to music and songs but creating a spatial soundscape that will make the world depicted on screen believable and tangible – Walter Murch is a true master of both these professions. It was he who made the otherworldly relationship between Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore in Jerry Zucker's Ghost suspenseful, emotional and poignant, while the film itself became one of the biggest hits of the 1990s. It was Murch's creativity and intuitiveness that supported the overall feeling of Anthony Minghella's Cold Mountain and made Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation the film that changed the way sound design was perceived. In THX 1138, George Lucas's debut feature, Murch created an encompassing sound space of all-too-real dystopian society, in Appocalypse Now he, Vittorio Storaro and other artists working on the film took the audiences on a journey into the Vietnam hell, and in Minghella's The English Patient he heightened the reality depicted on the screen. For his work on the latter movie Walter Murch received two Oscars®, for editing and sound design, which was an unprecedented achievement. He also won the Academy Award® for Best Sound in Apocalypse Now, and received six other Academy nominations.
Still from "Apocalypse Now"
Still from "The English Patient"
“A good editor must have some sense of how to tell a story, and that involves a sense of rhythm,”Murch explained in one of his interviews. “It's a little bit like telling a good joke. The joke could be a great joke but if you tell it with the wrong rhythm it falls flat.” These words seem to sum up perfectly the working ethos of Walter Murch, who fell in love with editing images and sounds as a teenager and since then decided to dedicate his professional life to developing both areas of cinematic craft, at the same time strongly opposing the empty virtuosity often seen in the film industry. Murch was very lucky, during his studies he met and collaborated with a group of film enthusiasts who helped each other fully master their skills and to try new and exciting things – directors George Lucas and John Milius, and cinematographer/director Caleb Deschanel, among others. What is more, Murch took his first real career steps with Francis Ford Coppola on his The Rain People and then on the legendary films The Godfather and The Conversation. Murch was also one of the creators of the 5.1 surround sound system in cinemas, and he is the only film editor who has been nominated for Academy Awards® for his work on four different editing systems: Moviola (Fred Zinneman's Julia), KEM (Coppola's Apocalypse Now), Avid (Minghella's The English Patient), Final Cut Pro (Minghella's Cold Mountain).
Still from "The Conversation"
Still from "Ghost"
Walter Murch is a true Renaissance Man, an artist who worked in various areas of the film industry. In 1985 he made his directing feature debut with Return to Oz. He co-wrote the screenplay to THX 1138 with George Lucas. He worked as a camera operator on the legendary concert documentary Gimme Shelter by the Maysles brothers – and it was he who took, with 1000mm lenses, the now-famous final shot of a peeing silhouetted man. Murch has also written a book about his craft: “In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing”, which is now a part of many film schools' curricula. Among many professional challenges he took, one should mention the use of detailed Orson Welles' memos in remixing and re-editing the famously studio-distorted Touch of Evil, helping the film reclaiming its status as a masterpiece of American cinema. Murch indefatigably promotes his ethos of editor and sound designer as a collaborator who helps directors and other filmmakers to shape their stories out of the chaos of the materials shot on set.
We are deeply honored that Walter Murch accepted our invitation and will come to Bydgoszcz to take part in the 23rd edition of the International Film Festival of the Art of Cinematography CAMERIMAGE. Not only to receive the Special Award to Editor with Unique Visual Sensitivity, but also to meet the festival's participants and talk about his experiences and immense knowledge.