RIP Sally Menke (updated)

I’ve rearranged previously-scheduled posts slightly this morning because of the very sad and unexpected death of editor Sally Menke at age 56. Ms. Menke was best known as the editor of all of Quentin Tarantino’s movies and, it was obvious from interviews, a hugely valued collaborator to the director. It appears she may have been a victim of the record heat yesterday. (It’s not unusual in Southern California for the highest temperatures to come right about this time.)

It’s sometimes hard for people to understand who’ve never worked on a movie to understand how important a good editor is and how much of a truly creative task it is. It’s also not that easy for outsiders to understand an editor’s contribution because we don’t see all the raw material they work with. I’ve seen editors take some pretty horrible stuff and make it usable and they can take good-to-okay material and make it near perfection. It’s a kind of alchemy. In any case, our sincere condolences to all of her friends and family, including Mr. Tarantino. I’m sure he’ll agree that his movies from this point forward will be inevitably somewhat different. I think you’ll get an of just how crucial Sally Menke was from what’s below.

After the flip, the final “Hi Sallys.”

I also realize that I haven’t properly acknowledged the passing of actress Gloria Stuart at 100. It’s obviously always sad to see someone cool leave us, but when it comes so late in life, it’s obviously different.

For some reason, I’ve found Ms. Menke’s passing to be personally upsetting in a way that’s surprising considering I’ve never met her or even seen much of her at public events. I suppose I’ve met quite a few people who’ve known her. L.A. can be a surprisingly small town sometimes. Sadly, she’s also not the first person I know of to pass on very prematurely during times of extreme heat. Be careful out there, folks.

UPDATE: More at MUBI, including this quote from an interview with Ms. Menke about her work on what turned out to be her final collaboration with Tarantino.

“I learned how to collapse time in action but still push characters through a scene. It’s a trick to give the illusion it’s all real; that’s become crucial to us because the Tarantino thing is to make the mundane feel very spicy. It’s the illusion that time is ticking away. It’s all about tension, so you follow the emotional arc of a character through a scene, even if, as in the opening of Inglourious Basterds, they’re just pouring a glass of milk or stuffing their pipe. We’re very proud of that scene — it might be the best thing we’ve ever done.”

  

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