The Conversations Review
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Michael Ondaatje met and talked with Walter Murch, film editing legend, and then wrote their conversation down and illustrated it with frames from the movies they discussed. Murch edited films such as The Godfather series, Apocalypse Now, and The Conversation with Francis Ford Coppola, among other blockbusters.

So why read an illustrated book full of transcripts between the two men talking about editing movies?

First of all, film junkies will love it. Secondly, writers will get a kick out of it too. Ondaatje, the novelist, and Murch, the film-editor, quickly understood each other, and alert readers will quickly follow. As they talked, the parallels between the two disciplines became more obvious. They both told stories, and the elements that made for a good story were the same, regardless of the medium they used to tell it.

I loved following the conversation, to see how one reacted to the observations of the other. When Murch described choosing certain transisions or deletions or small editing changes, Ondaatje got it right away, because sometimes as a writer, he did the same thing. Broken rules were easier to explain than changes that were necessary because the change "felt" right. After years of experience in practicing the rules of story-telling, they both just knew what was needed when. Their decisions were not arbitrary or lightly considered, and their discussion was totally absorbing.

So I loved eavesdropping on the whole conversation. Murch was as much a pleasure to listen to as Ondaatje, which surprised me because I'm such an Ondaatje fan. For instance, Murch nominated Edison, Flaubert and Beethoven as the three fathers of modern film. (No, I'm not going to try to explain, just read the book.) But I also just loved Murch's figurative use of language to explain what he meant, such as, "the silt and geology of his mind." What a treat.

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