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Helvetica (2007)

DVD Cover (Plexifilm)
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Culture & Society, Documentary, Essay Film, Graphic & Applied Arts, Visual Arts
Gary Hustwit Gary Hustwit
Michael Bierut Michael Bierut
Neville Brody Neville Brody
Dimitri Bruni Dimitri Bruni
David Carson David Carson
Matthew Carter Matthew Carter
Review by bluemeanie
Added: January 25, 2008
You're probably thinking - how in God's name could anyone make a feature length documentary about a font? The answer is - I don't know. The more and more positive buzz I kept hearing about this picture, the more and more excited I became. Personally, I could care less about fonts and the history of typography. It just doesn't interest me. But, if a documentary could present itself in an entertaining way and still manage to educate me - alls the more amazing. That said, it did not. The film "Helvetica" had me for about the first fifteen minutes and then I stopped caring. They kept relying on the same patterns over and over again to get their point across - a point that was made at the beginning of the film, and a point that did not need to be beaten into the ground.

In this documentary, we learn everything there is to know about the font known as Helvetica. We meet the son of the man who invented the font. We meet the President of the company that now owns the font. We meet typographers the world over who explain the relevance of Helvetica in the world we live in today. And, throughout these interviews, we are handed an assortment of montages that show us signs all around the world that utilize Helvetica. The way these people make it sound, Helvetica is second only to Jesus Christ in terms of influence. I kept listening to them talk about this font like they were talking about Martin Luther King, Jr. - after a while, it became laughable. I do not doubt the importance of a font, but that importance is probably greater within the field of typography than it is with the rest of the world. I have a difficult time believing a font can change the way the world is going, or have any social or political impact whatsoever. I don't buy it.

So, if I didn't buy the premise, I didn't buy the documentary, and that just about sums up my feelings on the documentary "Helvetica". It's one thing to take a look at the font and show us what makes it so remarkable and so important, but it's quite another to build this font up as something greater than it is, or ever could be. After listening to these people talk about Helvetica, I feel sorry for a lot of them. For others, I can't help but think they should invest their attentions into more rewarding hobbies and careers. I am not saying a typographer is not needed - but no typographer should ever use the words 'font' and 'revolutionary' in the same sentence, especially when they are not referring to the field of typography. That said, am I constantly looking around at all the signs and deciding which ones are and are not Helvetica? Yes. Oddly enough, the first two I noticed were not Helvetica at all. There were Sans Serif. Some documentary, huh?

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