IN SUNDAY NY TIMES ARTICLE SPARKED BY 'BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO'
The New York Times posted an article online today that will appear in this Sunday's print edition. The article, written by Mekado Murphy, focuses on movies about movie sound recordists, centered on the current release of Peter Strickland’s Berberian Sound Studio, and featuring quotes from Brian De Palma about Blow Out, which the article states is "probably the best known" among the handful of films "that put sound work in the spotlight."
"A person holding a microphone or sitting at a mixing board adjusting faders may not at first seem like the most compelling cinematic subject," Murphy writes. "The challenge is supplying creative visuals to illuminate characters focused on the aural."
A bit later in the article, Murphy brings De Palma into the discussion...
Working on a larger spectrum was John Travolta, who played a sound recordist for B-horror movies who accidentally records the murder of a presidential hopeful in Mr. De Palma’s 1981 thriller, Blow Out. Mr. De Palma, known for his focus on visual style, drew from his own experience with a sound editor.
“When I was mixing Dressed to Kill, ” — his Psycho pastiche from 1980 — “I was working with sound effects editor Dan Sable, who had done a bunch of movies for me,” Mr. De Palma said by phone. “We were looking for an effect. We had some wind in the trees, and I heard the effect he used and said: ‘Dan, I’ve heard that same wind effect in the last three movies. Can’t you get me some new sound?’ ” (They both laughed; the next day Mr. Sable went out to record some new wind.) Mr. De Palma wrote a scene in Blow Out that is taken almost directly from this exchange.
While the film involves a serial killer and features elaborately staged action sequences, Mr. De Palma makes time for detailed moments that explore his main character’s work. In a crucial scene, he syncs his recording to film images of the same event. “I did this as an editor, and sound editors do it, but I don’t think anybody had ever seen the process,” he said.
The whirring reels, large recording equipment and rolls of audiotape seen in Blow Out and Berberian Sound Studio are artifacts of the pre-digital filmmaking eras in which these movies take place. The imposing hardware, as well as the sounds it produces, plays a supporting role, too. Joakim Sundström, the supervising sound editor for Berberian, said that his team used digital equipment but he gave the sound a retro feel.
“What I did was take the majority of sounds that were in the film and I retransferred them onto magnetic tape and quarter-inch tape,” Mr. Sundström said.