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The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  1,474 ratings  ·  117 reviews
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 Patien
Paperback, 339 pages
Published October 5th 2002 by Knopf Publishing Group (first published 2002)
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Jacques de Villiers It's not a lecture to an audience, which is the format from which In the Blink of an Eye originated. It's a series of wide-ranging conversations betwe…moreIt's not a lecture to an audience, which is the format from which In the Blink of an Eye originated. It's a series of wide-ranging conversations between two friends and consummate artists that, while primarily about film editing and sound design, constantly brings these practices into contact with the other arts: music, literature, painting.

It's less instructive. If someone wanted to learn the craft of editing and had to read one of these, I'd definitely recommend them In the Blink of An Eye (not that The Conversations lacks for lessons to impart).

It also goes into far more depth about the films Murch has worked on, and about his career trajectory more generally.

In sum this book barely repeats the content of In the Blink of an Eye, and if you enjoyed the one you'll definitely enjoy the other.(less)

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Nov 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is just a fantastic book about film editing from one of the professions masters. Murch is not only a great editor but he edited amazing films including The Conversation and Apocalypse Now (amazing, of course, in no small part, thanks to Murch's contributions.) Hearing the behind-the-scenes stories on these films and others is really fantastic but what makes this book so much more than the typical film history book is that Murch connects filmmaking to so many different disciplines--painting, ...more
Thaisa Frank
Jul 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Two disclaimers: First, I'm recommending this book as a writer and not as a film editor or screenwriter. Second: I thoroughly resonated to this book because it mirrors the way I write and revise.

Having made these disclaimers, this is a book that I am recommeding to all my students. If you aren't a writer who works in a linear manner (and even if you are) this book, in which a film editor explains the way he works, is like listening in on the silent conversations writers often have with themselv
Kristin Boldon
May 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020, new, own, mfa, cnf
This book is full of so much wisdom and information. I recommend watching, Godfather, The Conversation, Godfather II, Apocalypse Now, and The Talented Mr. Ripley then read this book to find out why they're as amazing as they are. ...more
Jay McNair
Feb 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Murch: "[My father] would even stub his cigarettes out in paintings. You can see the fragments of tobacco covered over with oil paint. Or he'd put a painting down and set cans of paint on it, so you see the rings of the cans on the canvas. Or he would stand on a painting, and grid dirt into it. Before he ever started on a painting, the canvas would have to go through a period of abuse. We lived in an old apartment on Riverside Drive in New York, and the long hallway of the apartment was frequent ...more
Micole Williams
May 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Really enjoyed this visually as well as the interviews. What a collaborative process filmmaking is. There are so many analogies that give life to what happens before, during and after a production. This book associates the set of a film with a “beehive”. The role of the editor, often is quieter in all the buzz. But this book wants to acknowledge this “master lens”. Walter Murch happens to be an editor who has worked on projects that “have become central to the culture of our time.” He is describ ...more
Hugo B. Hugo
Jan 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
Interesting foray between a novelist and an editor but too much time is spent on gossip and irrelevant details and not enough on the craft! I'm being harsh because in comparison to the Fine Cuts European Editors book, there is little philosophy or heartfelt passion from these boomer millionaire artists. ...more
Alex Thompson
Nov 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the two best books on filmmaking - this and Sidney Lumet's Making Movies is all one needs to know. ...more
Mar 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
I feel stingy for not giving The Conversations five stars, but it ends too soon, and I wanted these two brilliant artists to just keep exploring together.
G.M. Burrow
Feb 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: film
Fascinating and so, so inspiring. Now I want to edit films and I’m in awe of all those silent, unthanked magicians who have made it look so effortless.
Feb 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Such a fascinating read.
I spent a month savoring these discussions between Ondaatje and Murch. I don't think I've ever been so reluctant to return a book to the library.

Michael Ondaatje continues to amaze, and I have a new person to very much admire in Walter Murch. So many gems in here about the mysteries of creating art, of life in general, somehow put into words. Paradoxes, sound as light, ambiguity, editing. . . this book is a treasure trove of insights that have helped me with my own creative process, and understa
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
My co-worker (who majored in film) recommended Walter Murch's book In the Blink of an Eye to me, but while researching that book on here a lot of reviewers seemed to recommend this one instead, since it covers a lot of the same material plus a whole lot more. This book will leave you in awe of Walter Murch, not just as a genius of film and sound editing, but as a true Renaissance man with interests in science, music, poetry, etc. I especially recommend this book to my fellow cartoonist friends, ...more
David Ross
Jan 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
A series of conversations with a true film genius. March's wisdom is not exclusive to cinema and as such, the connections he makes from science, art and history into his filmmaking are profound, revelatory and wholly unlike anything you've ever studied in relation to the art. The specific, behind the scenes anecdotes from films like the Godfather, Apocalypse Now and English Patient are in themselves, very interesting and full of great lessons to be learned. A must read for any filmmaker. ...more
Great fun read between a now deceased author and the editor who cut some of the greatest movies made in the modern film era, including one of the author's own stories, The English Patient. I loved every page of it and never wanted it to end. ...more
Chris Parkhurst
Jan 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: all video/film editors.
Fascinating, poetic, philosophical look at the Art of Film Editing.
Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This a non- fiction book interviews the movie editor Walter Murch, it talks about how important does editing means in a movie, and what kind of effects will shows by different editing. He talks about the experiences he been through his career and it gives the readers an idea of a revolution of editing. In a different era and time periods, editors invent different style and ways to edit video clips. It gives different effects to the audience, from a single cut and putting all the clips together, ...more
Jul 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Took my time learning about the editing techniques of one of Hollywood's unsung heros: Walter Murch. The conversations between Ondaatje and Murch are amazingly detailed and make you feel like you are sitting with them as you try to interrupt the conversation with your own brief and unspectacular (at least in my case) quips. I had to see these films again or for the first time after reading this book, including The English Patient, The Conversation, Rain People, Apocalypse Now, The Godfather, Tou ...more
Collin Hotchkiss
Mar 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
If you're at all interested in filmmaking as an art or a craft, read this book. Murch is one of the few contemporary film theorists with a platform, and you'd be hard-pressed to find an editor who hasn't been influenced by his work. Film editing may be "cutting out the bad bits", but it takes a lot of thinking to know which bits are bad. Murch has certainly done a lot of thinking about the subject, and his thoughts are worth your time. ...more
Mar 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
For anyone who has ever spent endless hours in a small dark room attempting to create screen magic from inadequate raw footage this book offers a glimpse into the true Art (capital “a” fully intended) of film editing. It’s a craft at which Walter Murch is clearly a master - he worked on The Godfather and Apocalypse Now - but his deep knowledge of script-writing, cinematography, sound engineering, film history, music and philosophy make these conversations with Michael Ondaatje much more than dis ...more
Sean Baity
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs, writing
Easily worth $100 for anyone doing any sound design or editing in any medium. The gems and tricks he doles out are fantastic and true. Great tidbits from all the films he worked on. Changed my understanding of what a film editor is capable of. He’s funny, inspiring, modest, and bold- highly recommend.
Now i have to read his, “In the Blink of an Eye” book!
Mark Schoen
May 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: film
“A film is born three times—in the writing of the script, in the shooting, and in the editing.”

Walter Murch is a real renaissance man, as interested in art, philosophy, and science as he is in film. I could listen to him all day.
Nick Escobar
Nov 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-ficton
Murch is one of the most talented editors in the history of film. "The Conversations" delves into Murch's thoughts on sound, editing, directing, writing and all of the myriad aspects of filmmaking. A great read for anyone who makes films. ...more
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great book ! A must for Editors and Filmmakers. Some good practical techniques for editing.
Aug 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Gorgeous & fascinating.
Serin Lee
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Works as a wake-up call and creative bible.
Nov 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really loved this book and recommend it to anyone who enjoys the intricacies of filmmaking - for that matter, read this book if you like making stuff, period.
Bennett Rosner
Mar 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Had some decent insight on Apocalypse Now. Not suggested unless you have seen most of the films mentioned in the book (i.e "The Godfather", "The English Patient", "Return to Oz", etc.). ...more
Jun 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the most fascinating film books I've ever read. ...more
Will Irby
Oct 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Lights, Cameras, Action: Genius.
Telugu Rockers
Jan 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of the greatest books of Film Editing. Many big directors advises this book for aspiring film makers...
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He was born to a Burgher family of Dutch-Tamil-Sinhalese-Portuguese origin. He moved to England with his mother in 1954. After relocating to Canada in 1962, Ondaatje became a Canadian citizen. Ondaatje studied for a time at Bishops College School and Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec, but moved to Toronto and received his BA from the University of Toronto and his MA from Queen's Universit ...more

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