First, I must admit that I’m a type (font) geek and was looking forward to the world premiere at SXSW in March. The film didn’t disappoint, and it was a nice bonus to have David Carson there for the Q&A after the premiere with the director, Gary Hustwit. Not a big Carson fan, but he had some great one-liners in the movie, as did many of the design world luminaries, notably Erik Spiekermann: “Why is bad taste ubiquitous?” is one of my favs.
My second viewing of the film (I bought tickets for the May 31 screening in early April) was an even better experience. Maybe it’s because I drove about 90 minutes one way for it, I don’t know. But I found it even more enjoyable the second time. The insights from the designers interviewed had more resonance with me. The intro and Q&A with Gary Hustwit were both fascinating and added measurably to my experience. By now he’s shown the movie in a few more places and has answered some of the standard questions repeatedly, so he was able to move beyond them to more interesting questions like, shouldn’t there be more movies made about all these amazing designers? (We all agreed with him via our applause to his posing this question.)
Then came one of my favorite parts of the night, his answer: “Then go out and get one of those DV cameras and start making them!” (I’m paraphrasing, but I think you get the gist of it.)
By no stretch of the imagination am I a filmmaker. I do appreciate good film. Even more, I enjoy a film that speaks to me on a professional/personal level as Helvetica does. To me, it’s an Oscar-caliber documentary. It’s beautifully shot, the music perfectly complements the story (as it should given Hustwit’s music background), and it’s one I can watch over and over again. I can’t say that about many films.
There’s an observable passion for design in all of the interviewees, in the way the film was crafted and more than anything, that is what makes this movie great.
On a side note: I’ve now developed what I’m calling “Hustwit Syndrome”: always looking for Helvetica and finding it. I’m actually enjoying it right now…