Physical film projection has nearly become a lost art in today’s world. The projectionist’s dance of light through celluloid at 24 frames per second – its production so ubiquitous and inseparable from its reception – has given way to digital abruptly and completely. Specialty houses and 70MM enthusiasts aside, the permanence (perceived or real) and physicality of a reel of 16 or 35MM film, which could be coveted, moved from place to place, and above all preserved is vanishing.
In Dennis Bartok and Jeff Joseph’s new book A Thousand Cuts: The Bizarre Underground World of Collectors and Dealers Who Saved the Movies, the authors take a sympathetic look at a subculture obsessed with cinema. Each collector the authors interview is as unique as the illegally obtained film prints they hoard, exhibit or trade – each judder from worn sprocket holes or purple cast from dye fade an old friend or at least a tolerated relative. Some collect to collect, some for friendship with like-minded individuals. Some parlay that collecting urge into film restoration, like film historian Kevin Brownlow and his work on Abel Gance’s 1927 silent epic Napoléon. A Thousand Cuts is a fascinating look at a disappearing subculture, as ephemeral as that light flickering through a film reel. Check it out today!