Pressing On: The Letterpress Film

Saving The Word

by Max White

THE QUICK SELL
Unbeknown to the modern world, there is a defiant community of men and women fighting to keep letterpress alive.

RELEASE DATE
19th June 2018

DIRECTED BY
Erin Beckloff, Andrew P. Quinn

WRITTEN BY
Erin Beckloff, Andrew P. Quinn

Running Time:
1h 39min

 
 

Unbeknown to the modern world, there is a defiant community of men and women fighting to keep letterpress alive.

Each has their own romanticised story of the first time they found letterpressing, like the first time a religious person finds god. They’re a humble, gentle group of people of various ages, united by their love for an art that is both dying out and creeping back into fashion; we can never quite be sure.

The older contingent of this tight knit community see themselves as the old guard, hopelessly indebted to their craft and responsible for passing down their reams of knowledge to the next generation.

Some were introduced to it at an early age by fathers or local tradesmen, some are simply tinkerers and self confessed collectors. All of them are interviewed in their cramped garages or workshops, the walls lined with paper, drawers of font type and heavy black presses older than themselves.

Pressing On is somewhat of a feelgood film. The gentle clunk of the pistons and the flow of the edit ebbs you away, all the while the narrative sort of laps at your soul. At a time where all we really hear from the US is riddled with Trumpisms, it’s nice to know that life’s little pleasures are keeping a pocket of people sane and happy there.

Some might say the people that appear in this film are a little, whisper it, nerdy. Whatever you think of them, you can’t help but smile when you see the pleasure they get from preserving this old age printing method.

You won’t find these guys picketing outside Apple stores, though they continually blame the Macintosh for the letterpress’ fall from grace. This isn’t a Louis Theroux story about a marginalised few. Their methods are more sentimental, instead preferring to search through basements for disused machinery to save it from the scrap yard.

There’s a peculiarly sweet moment where one enthusiast slides down a staircase into a stranger’s basement. Her husband, and fellow fanatic, is at the foot of the stairs where he catches her. They embrace and kiss, overjoyed by the discovery of an old press to add to their growing collection back home.

It’s the kind of film that will sooth your hangover. It’ll make you realise that things aren’t so bad. You might even dig out that tote bag from under the sink. You might make for the local craft fair. You might, whisper it, be one of them.

 

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