elegantly dressed concentration: Walter Murch


By day a mild-mannered film editor…

No ideawhat this was all about:  I got it off Le Pais, and my Spanish is very limited (as those of you will know, who caught me out confusing it with Portuguese the other week!).

Walter Murch is the multiple-Oscar-winning editor of films like Apocolypse Now, the Godfwather movies and (sorry) The English Patient, which gives me hives, but enough of that.

This post is a cheat, because I have  been wanting to write something about Murch’s book on film editing, In the Blink of an Eye – but I don’t have time now to find the quotes. I will just note that his ideas are very interesting in terms of how editing film – making a coherent thing, a film, out of millions of frames – is above all a sequence of decisions. This frame or that frame? Which emotion to we want to emphasise here? What is the significance of the cut? And if you call it a “join,” how does that change your perception of it?

He has  interesting things to say about simplicity and the importance of achieving maximum effect with minimum “effects” – this is the guy who sound-edited Apocolypse Now on a principle of “Less is more,” so you know he knows what he’s talking about. If you think about it, there are lots of sound-bites from that movie at large in the culture: that’s because he made it so you could hear them and take them in.

More soon. I’m assembling some particular ideas involving quotes from other people as well. Meanwhile, here is Murch surrounded by the hundreds of individual “characteristic” frames he prints out and puts on the wall in the studio for reference points. And he does make clear that, as to that interesting word “characteristic,” what they are characteristic of is his perception of what a shot is about. In other words, there is no eye without judgement.


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