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The democratisation of on-the-spot recording


Unbearable Lightness of Being – my next project
Walter Murch Film-maker
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Captain EO occupied probably about five months to get it to some point where the visual effects department then took over. And I went back to writing a screenplay. I was hoping to finish a screenplay that I had started before Return to Oz.

It was a screenplay based on Egypt and archaeology. It was a kind of intellectual mummy film that investigated the possibility of an afterlife, and what would that be? And is it true, or does it seem to be true, or what? And I got that with Gill Dennis, who was my co-writer on Return to Oz. We got that to a certain point. And then, I ran out of money. And I had kids going to college, and other things.

So I linked up, thankfully, with Phil Kaufman. And we worked together, him directing Unbearable Lightness of Being, and me, editing the film. And it's based on a novel by Milan Kundera, about the events leading up to and after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, as it was then in 1968. Fascinating subject matter that involved a considerable amount of archival material. Because one of the conceits of the film was that in the middle, we would actually see the invasion the way it was photographed at the time.

Born in 1943 in New York City, Murch graduated from the University of Southern California's School of Cinema-Television. His career stretches back to 1969 and includes work on Apocalypse Now, The Godfather I, II, and III, American Graffiti, The Conversation, and The English Patient. He has been referred to as 'the most respected film editor and sound designer in modern cinema.' In a career that spans over 40 years, Murch is perhaps best known for his collaborations with Francis Ford Coppola, beginning in 1969 with The Rain People. After working with George Lucas on THX 1138 (1971), which he co-wrote, and American Graffiti (1973), Murch returned to Coppola in 1974 for The Conversation, resulting in his first Academy Award nomination. Murch's pioneering achievements were acknowledged by Coppola in his follow-up film, the 1979 Palme d'Or winner Apocalypse Now, for which Murch was granted, in what is seen as a film-history first, the screen credit 'Sound Designer.' Murch has been nominated for nine Academy Awards and has won three, for best sound on Apocalypse Now (for which he and his collaborators devised the now-standard 5.1 sound format), and achieving an unprecedented double when he won both Best Film Editing and Best Sound for his work on The English Patient. Murch’s contributions to film reconstruction include 2001's Apocalypse Now: Redux and the 1998 re-edit of Orson Welles's Touch of Evil. He is also the director and co-writer of Return to Oz (1985). In 1995, Murch published a book on film editing, In the Blink of an Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing, in which he urges editors to prioritise emotion.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Unbearable Lightness of Being, Czechoslovakia, 1968, Phil Kaufman, Milan Kundera

Duration: 2 minutes, 1 second

Date story recorded: April 2016

Date story went live: 29 March 2017