The Monkeyland team and I have had the privilege of completing audio post production on MAX ROSE, the story of an octogenarian pianist who makes an unsettling discovery following the death of his wife. Legendary funny man, Jerry Lewis stars in the titular role, and the film is currently being screened at this year’s Cannes Film Festival in his honor.
Though the film is tender, touching and bittersweet, the editorial schedule was fast-paced and grueling, particularly since we were faced with a hard delivery deadline in preparation for Cannes. With that said, the Monkeyland crew and I had a really fun time editing and mixing MAX ROSE. Working with writer/director Daniel Noah was a special treat; he is passionate, articulate, witty and driven, and his notes really provided a solid foundation for our sound work to flourish.
I always try to discern some kernel or nugget of new insight from my experiences on a film, and working on MAX ROSE most certainly provided me with a number of new “appreciations” for how to fulfill my responsibilities as an editor and supervisor. I’d like to share a few of those insights here on The Post Lab!
1. Read the Script
The original blueprint for the film can provide a wealth of knowledge and insight about a film’s characters. In the case of MAX ROSE, Daniel Noah incorporated some very sound-specific ideas into his prose, which just the right amount of black coffee we needed in order to find the audible pulse for the film.
2. Appreciate the Composer’s Score
Being a story about a widowed eighty-something pianist, the score to MAX ROSE is chock full of bluesy riffs and moving melodies, and composer Michel Legrand tantalizes on both a visceral and an intellectual level. The music tugs at your gut, making you reflect on your own life while experiencing Max’s loneliness.
To create an organic and grounded sound experience for this film, we incorporated certain notes, phrases and chords from Mr. Legrand’s score and blended them into our design. Music swims through Max’s head daily and nightly, and in his most depressing and lowest moment, that music becomes more dissonant, scary and mutated. Sound design and score tangoed gracefully during these scenes.
3. Appreciate the Picture Cut
A story can change significantly from script to final locked picture, sometimes for the better, but oftentimes for worse. In the case of MAX ROSE though, I am happy to say that the final picture really brought forth the essence of the script, offering an interesting look into Max’s journey. Academy Award winning picture editor Richard Halsey’s keen sense of story helped to etch out a unique perspective, allowing the audience to truly experience life through the eyes of an eighty-year-old musician.
4. Trust Your Own Experiences
After reviewing the script, listening to the score, watching the performances, critically examining the picture cut, and the discussing the role of sound design with Daniel, I concluded that one of the more poignant and passionate themes we should focus on developing for MAX ROSE was the slow and painful passage of time. Selling Max’s loneliness and marking the passing seconds became our goal with the sound, and we used tempo-marking devices in order to do so. Metronomes, clocks, the dinging sound of a car door left ajar, discordant train whistles, distant clanging railroad bells, and hospital life support beeps helped to underscore the heartfelt score and the passionate story.
MAX ROSE is a wonderful tribute to love, commitment, experience, and on another level, to Jerry Lewis. I am excited to see what happens next for this film, and for its talented cast and crew.
Peter Lago is a sound editor and designer with extensive experience in feature, television, documentaries, and new media projects. A staff editor at Monkeyland Audio since 2003, Peter has developed a strong reputation for delivering high quality, well detailed and expressive tracks in a timely and efficient manner. Nominated six times for a Golden Reel Award, he won his first in 2012 for his work on the webseries, “Aim High.” Check out Peter’s blogsite to read more about his experiences in the sonic trenches at www.lagosounds.com.