Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound

A lively movie-love documentary looks at the history of sound design in Hollywood, as innovated by artists of technology like Walter Murch

Among the pivotal and juicy nuggets of film history recounted in “Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound,” Midge Costin’s wonkishly engaging movie-love documentary, there’s one that speaks volumes about the foundation of the New Hollywood.

It’s 1967, and George Lucas, who is three years away from making his first film, is on the set of “Finian’s Rainbow,” the clomping warhorse of a Hollywood musical that his buddy and fellow film-school brat Francis Ford Coppola has been hired to direct. Coppola, who already dreams of making his own more personal film, asks Lucas if he knows a good sound designer; Lucas tips him off to his USC colleague Walter Murch. Coppola and Murch then team up to make “The Rain People,” a road odyssey they literally shoot across the country, with Murch using the new Nagra Portable Audio Recorder. That’s when these filmmakers have their aha moment. “If we can make a film out of a shoe store in Nebraska,” realizes Murch, “then why do we have to be in Hollywood?” At that point the three head up to San Francisco to form American Zoetrope.

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