Here is something that you don’t see every day: a documentary that gets its facts wrong.
Viewers with little knowledge on the history of sound technology in filmmaking are advised to stay away from Midge Costin’s feature, which gives a cockamamie overview of the audio aspects of the cinematic experience. Costin appears to be under the impression that movies were completely silent between Edison’s failed sound film experiments of the late 1890s and the Warner Bros. releases of “Don Juan” and “The Jazz Singer” in the late 1920s – in reality, there were numerous experiments taking place to create the so-called “talkies,” and many of these works still survive and are widely available for review.
Costin oddly seems to bestow credit for the industry’s embrace of stereophonic sound in film exhibition on (of all things) the misguided Barbra Streisand version of “A Star is Born” – never mind that Walt Disney pioneered the technology with his Oscar-winning Fantasound technology in the 1940 release of “Fantasia.” The film cites “King Kong” as a breakthrough in sound effects recording and editing while ignoring the more subtle use of sound in other films of the early 1930s, including “Vampyr” and “White Zombie,” not to mention the merry audio madness that populated the Three Stooges’ soundtracks.
While “Making Waves” is infatuated with the sound editing and mixing in 1970s-era films by Coppola, Lucas and Spielberg, it forgets the sophisticated efforts in “From Here to Eternity” (the Pearl Harbor attack) “Ben-Hur” (the chariot race) “How the West Was Won” (the buffalo stampede) and “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” (the gas station and the fireworks in the basement) into sound effects classics. Even stranger is the decision to offer black-and-white clips of Technicolor classics of “Gone with the Wind” and “Singing in the Rain.”
Despite a starry line-up on camera – including Streisand, Lucas, Spielberg, David Lynch, Ang Lee and Peter Weir – “Making Waves” is just a lot of misguided noise.