Q3 2017

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55 Q3 2017 / CINEMONTAGE Waves Passing in the Night: Walter Murch in the Land of the Astrophysicists by Lawrence Weschler Bloomsbury, 2017 Hard Cover, 165 pages, $25.00 ISBN # 978-1-63286-718-6 by Betsy A. McLane T he title of Lawrence Weschler's book, Waves Passing in the Night: Walter Murch in the Land of the Astrophysicists, is complex and slightly mysterious, fitting for an exploration into the mind of legendary picture editor, sound designer, sound editor, re-recording mixer, writer and director Walter Murch, ACE, CAS, MPSE. Murch has previously and generously expounded on his experiences, inspirations and techniques in the fields of sound recording and design, as well as picture editing, in two editions of his own classic book, In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing (Silman-James Press, 1995, 2001). A part of the fascinating terrain of his thoughts on film was limned by Michael Ondaatje (author of the novel The English Patient, 1993) in The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film (Knopf, 2004). Weschler's title portends that now it's time for something completely different from Murch that may, or may not, be true. For 50 years, Walter Murch has astonished moviemakers and audiences with aesthetic and technical innovations that fundamentally changed cinema sound. He clomped through the San Francisco Natural History Museum in self-made metal shoes at 2:00 a.m. to create police boots for THX-1138 (1971), then came up with his so-called "law of two-and-a-half " via those footsteps. His career-long partnership with director Francis Ford Coppola includes serving as supervising editor, sound designer, re-recording mixer and sound editor (the latter uncredited) for The Conversation (1974), and working in multiple post positions (including post-production consultant) among the films of The Godfather Trilogy (1972, 1974, 1990). Not to mention wrangling 1.25 million feet (236 hours) of workprint from the Apocalypse Now (1979) shoot (one of the biggest problems was moving that amount of film around on pallets!) as one of three credited picture editors, sound designer and re-recording mixer. More recently, his picture editing and re-recording mixing enhanced feature documentaries such as Particle Fever (2013). Throughout it all, Murch has never stopped experimenting. He is the only film editor to receive Oscar nominations for editing films on four different systems — Julia (1977), upright Moviola; Apocalypse Now, Ghost (1990) and The Godfather, Part III, KEM; The English Patient (1996), Avid; and Cold Mountain (2003), Final Cut Pro 4 — and is the only person to win Academy Awards for Best Film Editing and Best Sound (mixing) for one film, The English Patient. All of this and much more about Murch is well-documented, due to his willingness to share insights into his craft and his remarkable ability to speak at length, entertainingly and with great erudition, about the complex ideas that spur his artistry. Waves Passing in the Night moves beyond film, exploring another of Murch's passions. As his biography states, "Between films, he pursues interests in the science of human perception, cosmology and the history of science. Since 1995, he has been working on a reinterpretation of the Titius-Bode Law of planetary spacing, based on data from the Voyager Probe, the Hubble telescope, and recent discoveries of exoplanets orbiting distant stars." Titius-Bode is a "rule," advanced in the 18th century by German astronomer Johann E. Bode (1747-1826), but probably first formulated by a colleague, Johann D. Titius (Tietz) (1729-96). The theory attempts to explain the position of planets using a formula based on the series 0, 3, 6, 12, 24, 48, 96, 192, 384 (after the number 3, simply double the preceding number), then adding four to each number and dividing by ten, which results in a very good approximation of the distance in astronomical units of the planets in our solar system from the sun. It is widely discredited by today's astrophysicists as a mathematical coincidence, since there seems to be no physical explanation, and it fails to apply to the outermost planets in our solar system, although the recent and continuing discovery of hundreds of exoplanets is seen by some as an opportunity to reconsider Titius-Bode. With text arranged in excerpts from mutual correspondence and conversation, along with parts of Murch's TED talk PowerPoint presentation on the subject, Weschler does a good job — and Murch an even better one — of explaining Titius-Bode. CUT/PRINT Planet Waves Walter Murch and the Sounds of the Solar System CONTINUED ON PAGE 59

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