Despite sharing this online via a laptop, I have always loved typewriters. When I begged my mother to let me bring home my great-grandmother’s machine at age eight, I drove my father crazy as I invented reasons to type. Later, I typed high school homework and stage-management notes. I just felt immensely satisfied by metal hitting paper, bringing my thoughts into a reality in a way that the computer keyboard has never done.
It seems I am not alone.
Filmmaker Doug Nichol has brought a series of voices, some unknown and some known in every American household, to create a chorus extolling the virtues of a technology not quite beyond its time. With taps, clacks, bells, and returns, a musicality is created as the true star of the film, the Typewriter, embraces the Three Faces of Time.
I was provided a screener for this film and the opportunity to speak with Mr. Nichol for the purpose of this review.
The opinions are mine. It is my Universe, after all.
California Typewriter, the film and the lost-in-black-and-white-rewind storefront, sits against the backdrop of the Bay Area. No single place better demonstrates the dichotomy of our sped up lives and a desire to stay analog
From a man who is not just reliving his past but the very past of typewriters to a future looking artist who deconstructs typewriters to keep them alive to the very real, very present Permillion family trying to keep alive their dream in a dying industry, a tale of survival is told. Now, if your eyes have started to gloss and you fear that this is a narcissistic endeavor extolling a time gone past, wake up. This documentary is a “movie” in every sense. It is a passion project about passions that exist far beyond the four walls of the store or the actual item at hand.
It’s Not Just About the Typewriter
For me, it’s about time. It’s about being in the world today with respect for what was good about the past and hope for the future without ever losing sight of now.
Nichol has done something special here and I hope that you will see it. Don’t watch for the famous faces, listen for the tale of time as poignant as the ghosts brought into our home every holiday season, Past, Present, and Future. You can decide who the Scrooge is.
You won’t find this playing next to many maniacal clowns or house guests that won’t leave. You may have to look for it among your smaller art houses and plan to attend that very weekend before it leaves. Do it. Take the time. I think you will be pleasantly surprised that a documentary about typewriters may rewrite the way you look at the power of technology in our lives and how we live the time we got.
About the Movie:
CALIFORNIA TYPEWRITER is a documentary portrait of artists, writers, and collectors who remain steadfastly loyal to the typewriter as a tool and muse, featuring Tom Hanks, John Mayer, David McCullough, Sam Shepard, and others. It also movingly documents the struggles of California Typewriter, one of the last standing repair shops in America dedicated to keeping the aging machines clicking. In the process, the film delivers a thought-provoking meditation on the changing dynamic between humans and machines, and encourages us to consider our own relationship with technology, old and new, as the digital age’s emphasis on speed and convenience redefines who’s serving whom, human or machine?