There have been a lot of 'talking head' documentaries in recent years -- where a person or persons sit and talk about an idea: The Aristocrats, Helvetica, The Kid Stays in the Picture. In Murch, David and Edie Ichioka focus their camera, more or less, on film and sound editor Walter Murch as he talks about the craft of editing and the film's he's applied it to. And really, any 'talking head' documentary stands or falls on whether or not the head doing the talking has interesting things to say -- and by that standard, Murch is a movie lover's delight.
Reading Walter Murch's resume brings to mind the line from Belloq about the big whatsit in Raiders: "We are just passing through history, Dr. Jones. But the Ark ... is history." Murch has cut images and shaped sound for Apocalypse Now, The English Patient, The Conversation, Ghost, American Graffiti, THX-1138, The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Godfather Part II, Jarhead. More intriguingly, he's also gone through a significant change in his field, from hand-cut linear editing to digital non-linear cutting -- a change as big as when monks trained in hand-illumination first looked upon Gutenberg's printing press.
But Murch is matter-of-fact about his craft, which is part of the film's appeal. He'll digress -- about the physiology of blinking, about his work technique of editing while standing, about the challenges and opportunities rising out of the films he's worked on -- but it all comes back to the central concern of this film and his work: How do you tell a story?