Helvetica
Directed by: Gary Hustwit
Plexi Productions LLC
What do American Apparel, the British version of The Office, the movie Jackass, Tupperware and government forms have in common? More than it first appears, posits Gary Hustwit's documentary, Helvetica. (The answer is not "they all star Steve-O.") Font enthusiasts (you're out there) have probably guessed the connection, simply by reading the title of the documentary linking them: all five employ the popular Helvetica typeface (the logos for the first four are written in Helvetica; so are most government forms.) "So what?" you ask. That's the beauty of Helvetica---by the time the film's done, you want to care about design and fonts. Hustwit tracks the evolution of now-ubiquitous Helvetica---from its humble creation in a Swiss typeface foundry, to its domination of 1960s design (as corporations embraced its crisp clarity), to the rebellion that it inspired in post-'60s designers sick of homogeneity. One designer links the Helvetica typeface to the ethos behind the Vietnam War, and to fascism. It's hard to embrace her logic, but interesting to see connections drawn between fonts and politics. Helvetica raises questions about artistic limitation, democracy and corporate branding---impressive for a doc that seems at first to be made for design junkies and word nerds alone.
Lindsay McCarney

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