my Movie

Movie Details

Title:   Helvetica
Director:   Gary Hustwit
Year:   2007
Genre:   Documentary
Times Seen:   1
Last Seen:   03.13.07

Other Movies Seen By This Director (0)

Notes History
Date Viewed Venue Note
03.13.07Austin Convention CenterThis Screening is part of event: South by Southwest 2007
So... probably my biggest surprise of the entire festival was the line for this movie. I really really really didn't think anyone would be interested in a feature-length documentary about a font. Boy was I wrong though... the line stretched the entire length of the convention center and the 400-seat auditorium filled up (what it was is that the movie was a combined event with the Interactive conference so all those designer and blogger nerds got to go to this as well).

The movie, in addition to telling the history of the font, is also kind of a travelogue through modernist and post-modernist design. They go plenty of places and interview respective top designers, telling a bit of their biography as well as their thoughts on Helvetica. The movie's also sprinkled with maybe hundreds of shots of Helvetica used around the world, showing up pretty much everywhere. This made for what will probably be a long-running funny joke for just myself (since I don't think anyone else I know will see this), of pointing out any text in public and saying "helvetica" (even if it's not actually correct). I even found myself doing it in the next movie whenever any sort of text was photographed. So in that respect, this movie will live on a long while for me.

Um... It's good! It's not as good as I hoped it would be (I figured if someone had the balls to make a whole movie on a font, it would have to be absolutely genius), but it overshot my realistic expectations by a long shot. They didn't dwell on the one thing I knew about Helvetica though, which is the angst designers feel against Arial for being a cheap knock-off that Microsoft used so they didn't have to pay for the real thing.

It's interesting though that the designers interviewed for this film had a wide range of feelings about the font. Some loved it, some hated it, some respected it but found it too boring, some blamed it for the Iraq war, some were obssessed with it for a while but have now moved on. One guy even described what it must have been like in the 60s for all these companies to drop their antiquated ad aestethetic (filled with comic fonts and tacky clip ark) for the ultra-clean modern look of Helvetica. The guy went on a whole rant about it filled with colorful descriptions and riled himself all up by the end of it. It's always cool and funny to see someone get so passionate about something that a lot of people... actually most people... care absolutely nothing about.

And the poster's clever to. It says "meet the cast:" then lists the alphabet in Helvetica. I joked in line about seeing the D at the convention center handing out flyers earlier in the day, and how they had tried to get the whole cast but X was being a prima donna and P had gotten totally wasted at the OK Go show last night... but in the movie they played a clip from Sesame Street where the letter D was puppet-ized and I thought that was funny. I WISH I saw a D walking around outside the theater. There's a total lack of costumed button-hander-outers this year. No Skip from Darkon, No Leslie Vernon handing out sticky hearts, no hot roller derby girls badgering you into taking a postcard. It's a shame.
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