Tuesday, July 25, 2017

What was the high point of sound engineering in American movies? plus two questions for readers

James Grady, author of Six Days of the Condor, the
novel on which
Three Days of the Condor is based.
Photo by Peter Rozovsky for Detectives Beyond
Borders
Were the late 1960s into the mid-1970s a high point of sound engineering in American crime movies? Bullitt (1967) is noted for its car chase, but, I wrote when I saw the movie for the first time that:
"I don't remember ever having seen a movie so self-conscious about its sound editing. Footsteps clatter loudly and significantly. Characters gesticulate and argue behind glass, seen but unheard. Pumps pump menacingly. Characters breathe loudly, and if you know Jacques Tati, you know where the movie makers got their idea for the hospital lobby scene with its busy ambient sound and utter absence of dialogue."
Last weekend I saw Three Days of the Condor (1975) at the Film Forum, and it used the teletype machine in the CIA front-organization office the way Bullitt used machines (EKGs) in an intensive care unit. Reviewing a DVD rerelease of Bullitt in 2005, the American Cinematographer website wrote of the famous car chase that "the music drops out and the whole scene is `scored' with a cacophony of revving engines and screeching tires."

I like that better than I like thudding music at one extreme and the triteness of echoing footsteps at the other, but I don't know much of the history of sound in movies. So, two questions: What are the high points of sound in American movies, and What are your favorite uses of sound (and why)?

© Peter Rozovsky 2017

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