Review: Film projection comes into focus in ‘The Light’

Adam Graham
The Detroit News
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The lost art of film projection is explored, dissected and almost fetishized in Peter Flynn’s comprehensive documentary “The Dying of the Light.”

Flynn looks at the history of cinema, from the earliest tent exhibitions to huge IMAX presentations, focusing on the projectionists locked away in tiny booths in the backs of rooms who made it all happen.

They’re a quirky bunch, which is to be expected from practitioners of such a lonely, isolated trade. They work long hours in windowless, poorly ventilated rooms, yet their dedication to their craft is admirable; one refers to his career as “the most exciting job in the world.”

It’s also an archaic job which has all but been eliminated by modern technology. Digital projection has become standard for the film industry, which surged from 14 percent digital projection in 2008 to 93 percent in 2013, leaving most of these projectionists out of work.

“Light” accepts this fate, as well as its benefits. Shipping 80 pounds of film in multiple reels doesn’t make sense when a 10-pound hard drive can do the job.

But Flynn still celebrates the art of projection, those who do it and who pass it on through apprenticeships, and the romance of celluloid. His subjects get obsessive at times — one compares cuing up a film to sex — but Flynn makes the point that the trade, once gone, is gone for good, and the loss is worth acknowledging and commemorating.

Will audiences notice that loss? Probably not. For them, the show still goes on. But in that tiny booth in the back of the room, something is gone.

(313) 222-2284

‘The Dying of the Light’


Not rated

Running time: 96 minutes

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