LETTERS IN FREEDOM
FIVE – IN THE EDITING ROOM DARKNESS
The editing room is known as a mysterious and powerful place. Next to the editor and his/her assistants, the director dismantles and upsets the dream, becoming Merlin.
Encounters that the cinema Fate, in its unfathomable project causes, in front of the Moviola enhance themselves becoming friendships lasting a lifetime or a few seasons, or links and old fellowships that can fall apart leaving gloomy resonances. But I do not want to reaffirm something many of you know very well.
Very few people can access the editing room during the editing process. The producer who has a certain degree of authority, goes into the editing room but the director’s approval might be needed.
It depends on the director’s power…
The musician is one of the few who can and must trespass that threshold. For the music. With the Music.
The relationship between the director and the musician, as you know, is one of those – during a the movie making – that have always drawn interest and curiosity among cinema scholars and others.
When the musician enters the editing room for the first time, normally not even a single note has been written. The movie is there, half inside and half outside. Sometimes needing music, others escaping it. Some directors, as a father with a little child, hold their movie by the hand as they show it to the musician, others just open it up as a house to be furnished is opened to the interior designer. Then there are even directors telling you the expected tone for the music to be written and directors who have no idea about the adequate music for their movie. Often I arrive in the editing room and find the movie filled with any kind of music, taken here and there, among home cds and cds enclosed to some newspaper. Music that is to stay there, sticked as limpets on the rock, and will be a tangible reference for the director when talking about music to the musician.
So the musician is, in a way, the last strong director’s expression in quite a boundless territory where understanding and communication depend on constantly re-invented codes, or on symbols and metaphors, allusions, references, sometimes telepathically…
Here is a peculiar example of communication codes.
Roberto Perpignani, the great editor, collaborator of Orson Welles, Paolo and Vittorio Taviani, Bernardo Bertolucci, Marco Bellocchio, Miklòs Jancsò, just to mention some of the many directors he has worked with, has told me of a discussion he has witnessed, when a musician (I do not want to specify his name) and the director, in the editing room, where watching the movie to decide about the music:
Musician: So..shall we put a cool one, here?
Director: Of course you need a cool one, here!
Musician: Now a happy one! Don’t you think? Oh it definitely has to be like that!
Director: Don’t you see her face? She’s about to cry…
Musician: Alright, let’s go for a sad one, then…
In the beautiful and fundamental book of interviews “Hitchcok” written by Truffaut in 1962 in a fast series of meetings lasted one week, Hitchcock said: “I do not care much about the subject and characters in Psycho: what I do care about is that the movie scenes editing, the photography, the music score and any pure technical detail could make the audience scream. I think it is a great satisfaction to us using the cinematographic art to create mass emotions. And we have accomplished this with Psycho”.
Hitchcock had produced on his own the 800.000 dollars movie (in 1960) earning 50 million dollars!
Such a declaration sounds peculiar, reading another very interesting book written by Stephen Rebello in 1990 “Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho”, a richest reportage about Psycho making.
We learn that Hitchcock was not satisfied about the movie and he was very concerned about his money, as he was sure of a failure at the box office.
During the editing he rushed everyone to complete the movie as soon as possible. He asked Bernard Herrmann, his trusted composer, the great musician you know, a jazz combo score, to make the movie lively and dynamic.
Herrmann and the editor George Tomasini, made the director compulsorily go on holidays for a couple of weeks to keep him far from the editing room and they went on working autonomously, far from the neurotic director’s instructions.
The outcome was extraordinary, as you know. After the sensational movie success, Hitchcock gave Herrmann a double salary (25.000$) to thank him for his brilliant score, very far from the jazz combo the director had on his mind…
And now, despite the sun, the blue sky, the blue August sea, listen to the gloomy dissonances and the lacerating screams from the music Herrmann composed for Psycho, using only a string orchestra.