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In 2005 a number of provocative, award-winning ads appeared that touted the Helvetica font; Gary Hustwit explores the subject protractedly with his feature-length essay film Helvetica. The documentary, produced in 2007 (and thus commemorating the typeface's 50th anniversary), uses the omnipresent font as a lens through which it examines contemporary visual culture and how typeface is used, aesthetically, spatially, and culturally, to impart shape and character to urban environments. Hustwit then segues into a discussion with a number of acclaimed designers about their work, their creative… More

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%

Critic Reviews from Rotten Tomatoes

"Helvetica is one of those rare films in which the exploration of a specific topic leads to expanding horizons of perception."
‑ Jeff Shannon, Seattle Times
"Helvetica keenly distills the eternal aesthetic battle between the classical and the baroque and explores what happens when a revolution goes mainstream."
‑ Julia Wallace, Village Voice
"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."
‑ Bill White, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"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."
‑ Maitland McDonagh, TV Guide's Movie Guide
"Funny to think that the font movie would have the potential to restore one's faith in art and its myriad meanings, but it does."
‑ Rob Nelson, City Pages, Minneapolis/St. Paul
"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."
‑ Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly
"Hustwit's talking heads, an endearingly geeky bunch, weigh in on the pros and cons of such ubiquity. Cage match! Not that kind of film."
‑ Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York
"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."
‑ Cath Clarke, Guardian
"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."
‑ Chris Barsanti, Film Journal International
"Appropriately, once the final credits roll, you're likely to sit through them with an enhanced understanding of the typeface they're in."
‑ Rumsey Taylor, Not Coming to a Theater Near You
"Overlong but fascinating, Gary Hustwit's documentary posits Helvetica, a sans-serif typeface developed in 1957."
‑ Matt Zoller Seitz, New York Times
"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."
‑ J. R. Jones, Chicago Reader
"A little like a study of the American Civil War that discusses the Confederacy without mentioning the Union."
‑ Michael W. Phillips, Jr., Goatdog's Movies
"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."
‑ Ed Gonzalez, Slant Magazine
More reviews for Helvetica on Rotten Tomatoes

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