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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Print > Fonts > Graphics > Helvetica (2007/Documentary/Graphics)

Helvetica (2007/Documentary/Graphics)


Picture: C+†††† Sound: C+†††† Extras: B-†††† Film: B



Though we are in the digital age, fonts are as important as ever and you can never have enough to choose from.Since its introduction in 1957, created by Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffmann, the font known as Helvetica has shown a profound acceptance and became the most important graphic of the later half of the 20th Century.Alive and well on its 50th Anniversary, Producer Gary Hustwit (see I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, Moog and Drive Well, Sleep Carefully elsewhere on this site) makes his directorial debut with a new documentary about its rise and phenomenal success.


The look of the text has become international, timeless (not worthless) and as early as the 1960s, Stanley Kubrick realized its distinction enough to include it in promotion for his films and his actual films before any other filmmaker, an aspect of its success and exposure this work actually misses.However, Kubrick was not the only one so impressed and it also became the font of modernism, part of malls, art galleries, corporate logos, government campaigns and so many other aspects of print that only by seeing this amazing documentary can you realize it is The Beatles of fonts.


But why?How did this become so successful?It is the clean lines?The somewhat natural/organic look?The form so smooth that it does not draw attention to itself that it is a graphic?That it has the same mood no matter what language it is representing?No matter, Hustwit tries to answer these questions to some extent and we see graphic artists and creators trying to rebel against its success with only so much success.ďIf it ainít broke, donít fix itĒ they say, but after watching all 80 minutes (and this could have gone on much longer as far as I was concerned) of this impressive piece with all of its research, Helvetica is here to stay for a long time to come.As that becomes more obvious, this will be seen as the valuable document it is.


The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image is softer than expected throughout despite this being a recent shoot, but the graphics come across more than clear enough.Maybe an HD format will show how good this was shot by Director of Photography Luke Geissbuhler, but the picture is just too soft throughout.The Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo is just fine for a simple documentary, especially one on visual graphics, so no complaints there.Kristian Dunnís score is not bad either.The only extra is a large set of extras interview segments all worth your time featuring the many subjects we meet throughout the program.


This is one of the must-see documentaries of the year and because it is not about politics, genocide or something very dramatic and immediate, you might miss it.Donít let that happen.



-†† Nicholas Sheffo


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