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All Critics (17)
| Top Critics (9)
| Fresh (15)
| Rotten (2)
| DVD (1)
Helvetica is one of those rare films in which the exploration of a specific topic leads to expanding horizons of perception.
Even viewers who've never given a serif a second thought are in for an exclamation point of joy from such a well-designed doc.
Overlong but fascinating, Gary Hustwit's documentary posits Helvetica, a sans-serif typeface developed in 1957.
Helvetica keenly distills the eternal aesthetic battle between the classical and the baroque and explores what happens when a revolution goes mainstream.
The computer revolution may have democratized graphic design, letting anyone decorate his own desktop or MySpace page, but a certain amount of conformity is necessary for society to function.
A splendid documentary about one typeface, designed in 1957 in Switzerland.
Director Gary Hustwit opens our eyes to the visual culture of typography in much the same way as Andy Warhol once freed us from the tyranny of advertising, by inviting reflection upon that which is intended as a subliminal encounter.
The tweaky world of typography is not perhaps as much at the heart of how we live as these designers would have us believe, but it's enjoyable to watch them rhapsodise sans serifs and spacing.
A little like a study of the American Civil War that discusses the Confederacy without mentioning the Union.
Though their interest sometime borders on obsessive, [director] Hustwit's stellar roster of experts parse Helvetica's origins and implications with engaging passion and striking articulateness.
Helvetica spins its wheels for a good part of its rather short running time, making the same points over and again, with diminishing effect each time.
Helvetica makes a game attempt to understand how typefaces have been applied to contemporary modes of information and how battle lines have been drawn about their usage.
Surprisingly interesting film. If thinking simply about simple things is the key to insight, this is the film for you.
Typeface designer Jonathan Hoefler, one of the many interviewees for this film, compares Helvetica, the font, in the film's introduction to off-white paint. No one really notices or cares about it. In terms of describing the average person's attitude toward the font, he couldn't have been more right.
The film starts out well enough, explaining typography and its nuances. Typography is, indeed, a mildly interesting topic. But that's not what the film is about. The film was simply a random potpourri of interviews with graphic designers and typeface designers who had varying opinions and different cute little metaphors to describe Helvetica. Between these interviews were rather random shots of Helvetica in everyday life.
That's fine and all, but listening to a typeface designer talk about his or her feelings toward Helvetica is like listening to a physics professor explain the aerodynamics of a football or listening to a linguist talk about the mouth's creation of various phonemes--it's really not interesting unless it's a subject you actually enjoy. And typeface design is a fairly dry subject.
This film might have worked better as a short documentary. It's a very narrow subject around which to create 80 minutes of film, and that becomes clear about halfway through. If you're into typeface or graphic design, you may enjoy this film. But if you're an average individual with average interests and hobbies, this film will eventually lull you to sleep.
My lukewarm reception of this documentary may be due to the fact that I abhor the eponymous font itself. I'm loath to use sans serifs anyway, but Helvetica really just makes me feel yuck.
Perhaps I'm not in this movie's target audience. It seems interesting and well-researched enough for designers in the industry. I do wonder, though, what exactly counts as Helvetica? Any blocky sans serif? Several different examples in the movie look very different from each other.
Interesting documentary, uninterestingly done.
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