Sight & Sound: The Cinema Of Walter Murch is a documentary by Jon Lefkovitz working double duty as a biography (of sorts) of the famed audiovisual master himself, and is also about the history of filmmaking through his many classic movies, like The Godfather, The Conversation, Apocalypse Now, and Touch of Evil.
The film interweaves interviews with Murch, footage of previous talks or masterclasses he gave, excerpts from the movies he worked on with his commentary, and behind the scene tidbits. The man explains his passion for the world of sound going way back to the beginning. Starting the documentary with deep existentialist thinking or laughable allegories, such as the remembrance of what happened to them in the womb’s “sonic environment.” The opening will make some run for the hills, as one might think they are about to watch a mindfulness doc. But we quickly learn more about Murch’s work in great detail and what brought him here.
“…interweaves interviews with Murch, footage of previous talks or masterclasses he gave…and behind the scene tidbits.”
Like many of his successful peers and collaborators, it was not just talent but also luck and being in the right place – schools – at the right time with the right people (the unofficial motto of making it in Hollywood, it seems). The three-time Oscar-winner is not only an acclaimed editor and sound designer but also a cinephile with a profound love for filmmaking. As such, he has other credits as a screenwriter, and he directed the much-criticized but now cult-classic Return to Oz. Something he mentions when discussing the weight of success and failure. “All films want to be great,” he says, but most aren’t, and that’s okay; thus, Murch gets surprisingly candid about missed opportunities, flops, or being fired from jobs.
Sight & Sound: The Cinema Of Walter Murch is weirdly divided into titled chapters that don’t really make sense but give viewers a general idea of what will be discussed next. This tends to be useful as often things can interestingly go off-topic as Murch gets carried away with lengthy anecdotes and metaphors. In fact, the documentary is full of those philosophical/ spiritual thoughts that might make it seem like an inspirational self-help guide as this is very much Murch’s way of expressing himself. That being said, most everything he utters will hit film, sound, and music lovers straight to their souls, particularly when voicing the idea that music, when used masterfully at the appropriate time, can “metabolize the emotions” and heighten them.
"…Murch suggests that editing is 'blinking for the audience.'"