If I could summarize “Pressing On: The Letterpress Film” in a single phrase, I would have to choose, “They just don’t make ’em like they used to.”
“Why has the letterpress survived the digital age?”
That’s the question that drives “Pressing On: The Letterpress Film.” The film tells the story of this 500-year-old process and the stories of the printers that love it. It’s a story of history, industry, entrepreneurial spirit, artistry, and, above all, preservation.
“Pressing On” is lovingly directed by Andrew Quinn and Erin Beckloff.
Loving. Loving is another word that hovered in my mind as I screened “Pressing On.” In every aspect of this documentary was an intimate reverence for the letterpress. From the filmmaker’s standpoint, the film is so beautifully put together. You may wonder how one could possibly fill a feature-length run time with stories about an antiquated piece of tech; it’s because there is immense respect for the subject and a purposeful desire to handle it with care. That shines through and it is incredibly appreciated.
A more literal example of the loving nature of the film is in the stories of the printers who love this art. These are masters and businesspeople and artists, all connected by a profound appreciation for the process. I wrote down a quote from one of the aging print masters, “Do something, make something,” and it lit my fire. This is a film that understands the great pride of creation, in pouring just as much heart and soul as you do sweat and labor into a project. It’s a gratifying feeling and makes for a warm film experience.
The attention to detail in this film is incredible. The opening credit sequence was a personal highlight, as it detailed the precision of the letterpress. Small mechanical movements and deliberate lettering. The opening credits alone embodied everything else that the film would be. Normally, I dislike “dramatic reenactment” in my non-fiction pieces, but “Pressing On” made it work. It made history feel more current and gave a good backbone to the rest of the film’s reporting. Every shot is beautiful and intricate. My particular favorites were shots of crafted event posters and a delightful sequence, showing the process of creating on a letterpress and the process of creating on a computer side-by-side. As I said from the outset, “they just don’t make ’em like they used to.”
“Pressing On: The Letterpress Film” was an unexpected joy and a really wonderful tribute. I warmly recommend it.
The film will be available on-demand on June 19. Read more reviews on Shuffle Online here.
Caitlin is a lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began when she was shown “Rosemary’s Baby” way too early in life. She currently serves as the Lead Film Contributor for Shuffle Online; other notable bylines include The Financial Diet and Film Inquiry. Caitlin is a member of the Online Association of Female Film Critics and the Women Film Critics Circle.