Basically one long talking-head-interview shot of Walter Murch, broken by bountiful movie excerpts, “Murch” offers a master class on movie editing, enriched by numerous behind-the-scenes and philosophical digressions. Even more simply assembled than “The Kid Stays in the Picture” (and featuring additional funny Robert Evans tales), pic seems a theatrical longshot. Further fest, select broadcast and perennial film school exposure is assured.
The sonorously voiced, bearded, turtlenecked Murch — interviewed on a London couch while completing “Cold Mountain” — became fascinated by sound at an early age. (Friends called him “Gerald McBoing-Boing,” after the UPA cartoon figure who spoke only in sound effects.)
Not bothering with a precise career arc, pic lets Murch bounce around chronologically, between earlier gigs as sound editor and later ones as sound/film editor. He performed both roles for the first time in the most apt vehicle possible: “The Conversation,” Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 masterpiece about a professional eavesdropper.
There are fascinating tales told about myriad films here, focusing primarily on Murch’s collaborations with directors Coppola (on “Apocalypse Now” and “The Godfather” trilogy), George Lucas (“THX-1138,” “American Graffiti”) and Anthony Minghella (“The English Patient,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley”). He also discusses overseeing the drastically different 1998 “Touch of Evil” re-edit (following the late Orson Welles’ extensive notes), and 2001’s “Apocalypse Now Redux.”
Subject is forthcoming, if prone to eccentric metaphor in detailing his idiosyncratic, highly instinctual work methods. Ideally chosen film clips suggest he’s a brilliant collaborator, especially on complicated projects.
Despite basic clip/yak presentation, runtime feels too brief given the absorbing content. It’s disappointing Murch doesn’t comment on his occasional screenplay contributions, his more commercial assignments (“Ghost,” “First Knight”) or Fred Zinnemann’s “Julia” (for which he was nominated for an editing Oscar).
Recent “Jarhead” is excerpted but never discussed; nor is there room for the subject’s sole directing turn to date, “Return to Oz” — a unique fantasy too dark for popular appeal in 1985, though it’s accrued a cult following since.
Ideally chosen clips are in good shape, though “Apocalypse” excerpts look excessively color-keyed in hot sunset tones. Co-helmer Edie Ichioka was Murch’s assistant on “The English Patient.”