Michael Ondaatje is the author of four previous novels, a memoir, and eleven books of poetry. His most recent novel, Anil's Ghost, won the Governor General's Award, the Giller Prize, the Prix Medicis, and the Irish Times Literature Prize. Born in Sri Lanka, he came to Canada in 1963 and apart from his books has made two documentary films. He lives in Toronto.
Ask most moviegoers, "Who is Walter Murch?" and they're likely to stare uncomprehendingly. Ondaatje (The English Patient) seeks to eradicate that ignorance by providing an expert analysis of Murch's consummate film editing skills, and pointing out along the way the monumental contributions editors make to motion pictures. Murch, a three time Oscar winner and integral collaborator on such cinematic milestones as The Godfather, Julia, The English Patient and American Graffiti, attended the University of Southern California with George Lucas and bonded early on with UCLA film student Francis Ford Coppola. A relative neophyte, he worked on Coppola's The Rain People and a low-budget sci-fi picture, THX 1138, which has since become a cult classic. Murch adhered to a rule of not watching other movies while concentrating on a project of his own, calling himself a "queen bee who gets impregnated once and can lay millions of eggs afterwards." Through his eyes, and Ondaatje's remarkably insightful questions and comments, readers see how intricate the process is, and understand Murch when he says, "The editor is the only one who has time to deal with the whole jigsaw. The director simply doesn't." He also offers insightful thoughts on Orson Welles, Marlon Brando and Fred Zinnemann. Although Murch claims the actors on his films rarely know who he is, this excellent, eye-opening book done in a question-and-answer format will make readers glad Ondaatje has shown them the significant role he plays behind the scenes. Photos. (Sept.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
"Immensely stimulating....This book should be required reading for anyone working in film and a pleasurable option for moviegoers who wish to deepen and enrich the experience." -- John Boorman, director of Deliverance, Hope and Glory and Excalibur, reviewing The Conversations in the LA Times
"As the subject of Michael Ondaatje's offbeat, exhilarating new
book, [Walter Murch] makes poetry out of an arcane, invisible
craft.... Readers with even a passing interest in the movies should
find many pleasures here.... The Conversations should be
required reading for every aspiring writer -- and anyone else
involved in learning to shape a work of art." -- Quill &
"Here's one of the more interesting cross-disciplinary meetings of minds to hit book form in some time.... In a series of long conversations recorded over a two-year period, Ondaatje and Murch, both highly intelligent and thoughtful artists, transcend the interview-book genre by following tangents, engaging in arguments, contextualizing everything and reminiscing.... this is compulsive and compulsory reading for anyone in film school or interested in film history." -- NOW "The Conversations is an homage and an exegesis -- effortlessly inquiring and creative. Constructed as a sequence of five discursive interviews ... The Conversations is companionable, but not excluding, and intellectually exhaustive, though not for a moment tedious. The friendship of the two men throws an illuminating torch light on Murch's shadowy profession. The editor should be thrilled to have his genius commemorated in this way.... The probing thoughtfulness Murch displays in his conversations with Ondaatje reveal a preoccupation not just with theory, but with the prospect of a system of notation that might provide a common language to a cinematic profession that is still, essentially, an infant one.... fascinating." -- The National Post "It's not often that a quick read provides so much insight." -- The Ottawa Citizen "It is the movie book of the season, in fact, the movie book for every season.... engrossing ... What the book sparks, aside from rarely probed thoughts about editing, is a desire to see again the movies Murch has edited and to do this at home hand in hand with reading it." -- The Toronto Star "The Conversations is delightful mainly for Ondaatje's palpable pleasure, the novelist's pleasure for eccentric characters discovered in emblematic moments. Murch ... is certainly eccentric.... The Conversations faithfully represents Ondaatje's reverance for a man normally beyond public attention." -- The Georgia Straight "There's much in store here for film fans.... many fascinating revelations about film as art." -- Star Phoenix (Saskatoon)