The projectionist still in love with the old romance of film
Since the age of 14, Cosme Di Natale has been projecting dreams onto the screen.
Loading the spool and threading the 35mm film into the projector. The shaft of light illuminating motes of dust as it pierces the auditorium. The physical contact with the film. The role of the traditional cinema projectionist has a romance that has been captured in film itself - think the classic Cinema Paradiso and continues to hold a special allure. With the advent of digital film, much about the profession has changed, but there are still old hands who preserve the knowledge of cinemas past.
An iconic venue
The Gaumont cinema is an iconic venue for the Argentine film industry. Founded in 1912 opposite the National Congress square, the current rationalist building was inaugurated in 1942. Since the year 2003, it’s been run by Argentina’s national film institute INCAA and it screens almost exclusively Argentine films, both fiction and documentaries. It’s the cinema where all Argentine movies premiere, allowing easy public access to big names in what is one of the largest film industries in Latin America. Cosme “El Tano” Di Natale began is one of the cinema´s projectionists.
An enduring romance
El Tano began working in his profession at the age of 14 at a time when the light for the projector was produced by carbon arc lights. Technology has developed greatly, but while the majority of the films at the Gaumont are now projected digitally, some still arrive in the old 35mm, and there are festivals specialising in the format so the cinema isn’t dismantling its old projector yet. “There’s a romanticism in the traditional way of working,” El Tano says. “Digital is colder: you simply press a button. But with 35mm you have to prepare the film, set it up, project it, and in my opinion it’s something else. It has its own beauty. It has pores that you can see on the screen when the light is good. There are directors that still prefer to work with film so it hasn’t completely disappeared.”
The only profession imaginable
The projectionist spends a lot of time in the dark, watching dreams light up the screen before them. José couldn’t imagine doing anything else. “For some people, it’s difficult to work at night, and on Saturdays, Sundays, birthdays,” he says. “But for those of us who like the cinema, no other work exists. As well as that, the Gaumont is a very special cultural space where all Argentine films converge and it opens a lot of people’s minds.
There are many Argentine films to watch, one of the most famous internationally being the Oscar winning The Secret in Their Eyes, much of which was filmed in Buenos Aires. José recommends recent production. “I’d recommend a documentary called Un Cine en Concreto, which is about a cinema aficionado who makes a cinema in his home. The guy’s always had a passion for film and he’s a builder so he makes a cinema in his house.” Perhaps this goes somewhere towards showing the passion for film that José shares. “The cinema is a very particular place to work because it has a special flavour,” he says. “I always say that I’ve never worked in my life because I do the thing I enjoy.”