VOD/DVD RELEASE JUNE 19
Directed by: Andrew P. Quinn and Erin Beckloff
Director of Photography: Joseph Vella
Producer: Kevin Grazioli
Pressing On: The Letterpress Film is a nostalgic, handsomely mounted documentary on the printing press, which sadly has fallen out of favor in today’s computer-driven world. Directors Andrew P. Quinn and Erin Beckloff clearly have a love for their subject, and it shows in every frame of this excellent film.
It’s not a stretch to say that the modern world was born on a printing press. Though once essential to communication (and the dissemination of information), it has become something of a relic, a dinosaur from the Stone Age (or in this case, the Metal Age) that is now often used merely for commemorative purposes. In a period when Nostalgia seems to be back in fashion, the printing press may stand half a chance of actually surviving…as long as its strengths continue to be appreciated by those yearning for a simpler--and more concise--time.
Through numerous interviews Pressing On provides multiple narratives from those still using the machines; some are joyful, others melancholy and wistful, but all do a good job of conveying this invention’s importance, both in the past and present day. We’re told how “printing is a privilege”, and that it can be a physically demanding job (one print shop owner shows us missing tips of his fingers from machine accidents as well as lead burns; he recalls them fondly as “battle scars.”) We’re also told that due to today’s fast-paced society in which we’re always looking for speed over substance, the printing press is “being thrown away immediately because we’ve found a new, faster way to do things.” You get a true sense from the film that we’ve sacrificed a large part of history in order to get things done more quickly; advances in technology (computers and copy machines alike) may be wonderfully practical, but they’ve also robbed us of a bit of history.
Pressing On is beautifully photographed by cinematographer Joseph Vella. The images glow with a warmth rarely seen in documentaries (which tend to be grittier). He perfectly captures the feeling of nostalgia, as everything seems to be light and soft around the edges, even when the action is taking place in overcrowded work rooms and dusty, cluttered basements; every object has its own personality, from the actual metal type letters to the large, cumbersome presses; you can practically smell the oils and ink. We also get nice bursts of color when we see the entertainment posters created by printing presses; the country music industry once used posters to advertise performers, from Bill Monroe to Dolly Parton and whomever may be performing at the Grand Ole Opry. Now these posters are used mainly for commemorative purposes (though the music poster can still be found for concerts and shows).
I never expected a documentary about the printing press to be so involving. Educational? Yes. But certainly not intriguing. Pressing On: The Letterpress Film achieves both…in bold type.
From the back row,