Andrew Ford—writer, composer and ABC radio broadcaster—spent five years scrutinising 400 films, as well as interviewing film directors and composers, in the creation of this book. The undertaking has proved worthwhile. Ford vows upfront to avoid obfuscating academic jargon, along with the peddling of any grand theoretical paradigms. He opts instead for an accessible, erudite narration in what is a considered exploration of the multifarious uses of music and sound editing throughout the history of cinema. Wisely, Ford acknowledges that even lousy films can generate interesting discussion, and so The Scent of Green Papaya is devoted no more exegesis than, say, Sliding Doors. Indeed, Ford is refreshingly egalitarian, surveying not only the classy (Les Enfants Du Paradis, Fanny and Alexander) and classic (Citizen Kane, Psycho), but also the popular (The Bodyguard, Die Hard), the recent (In Bruges, Samson & Delilah), the lurid (Suspiria) and the downright dire (Mamma Mia!). Of his interview subjects, of which there are 10, Ennio Morricone, Sally Potter and Peter Greenaway offer most food for thought. While there might inevitably be blind spots, Ford’s roving curiosity and inclusive prose ensure The Sound of Pictures holds premium interest for all movie enthusiasts, casual and committed.
Gerard Elson is a writer, film blogger and DVD buyer for Readings St Kilda. This review first appeared in the Summer 2010/11 issue of Bookseller+Publisher magazine.