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2008-08-17 19:19

Lukhnos had the good fortune to see the documentary Helvetica in San Francisco. I translate his review below. (Also check out the Helvetica exhibit now at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.)

Finally, er, I went to see this movie.

The Ticket Stub

Many segments were comical (the audience in the theater actually burst out in laughter). When it came to the birth of Swiss style, the editing was seamless and graceful to the extreme.

When Michael Bierut’s side cheerfully suggested that this typeface resembles the end of history and a typographical “finality”, I realized suddenly that this movie may be the most profound I have seen in years. Behind its starting point of visual design lurks that which is modernity. The closing remarks depict in some sense how these designers view future generations’ living in a world where “all is said and done” possibly (because it is a typeface almost thought unsurpassable), even slightly triggering a certain lacrimal corner in my eyes. This took me by complete surprise, just as nobody could predict that the typeface originally known as Neue Haas Grotesk would be a sign of our times.

The director Gary Hustwit said that DVDs will go on sale on October 9, clocking in at two hours long (the theater cut is 80 minutes). The original soundtrack will be distributed as an iTunes playlist.

Because this blog entry is about WWDC, let me mention two facts about the movie and the Mac:

  1. One motivation for making the film was that the director wondered about the fonts that came with his first Mac in 1987.

  2. Characters in the film as senior as Massimo Vignelli, as young as the Experimental Jetset group, and as iconoclastic as Paula Scher are all Mac users.

I’m saying both too much and too little. This is a documentary I truly cannot summarize yet want to see several times more. (It cannot even be said to praise or criticize the typeface.)

Just go see it.