California Typewriter follows the lives of a variety of individuals as they all discuss a similar passion – the typewriter.
As odd as it might sound, the topic at hand proves to be a fascinating one to delve into. While the PC and laptop replaced the typewriter; the typewriter is making a small come back because, as John Mayer puts it, it gives you a palpable outcome right then and there. While we move forward with our technology, sometimes its good to reach back and hold on to old technology. It has tangibility to it. It brings things to life in ways that the computer just can’t. The typewriter is really a beautiful thing.
Watching the likes of Sam Shepard and Tom Hanks delve into what makes the typewriter beautiful allows this documentary to become all the more special. Hanks discusses the sound that the different machines make, Shepard shows how the typewriter brings words to life in ways nothing else can; this documentary is done with such passion that it deserves a repeat watching.
Shepard even compares the process of loading paper to “saddling a horse” (seriously, watching him speak is poetry in motion) and The Boston Typewriter Orchestra shows that you can literally make music with these wondrous machines, a feat that is both impressive and inspiring.
Outside of the famous contributors the film also follows California Typewriter, a typewriter store outside of Berkley that sells and repairs the machine. The film also catches up with Jeremy Mayes, an artist who creates statues out of old, discarded typewriters. While typewriters have become something of a relic, many are hoping that it can have the same resurgence as the record player, another older tech machine that is currently experiencing a tremendous comeback.
After visiting the Rock n’ Roll hall of fame singer/songwriter John Mayer makes a fantastic observation, noticing that all those wonderful, memorable lyrics that were hand written and/or typed are preserved in a way that cannot be done digitally. They have scratch-outs and notes and everything else that takes you inside the thought process.
The point of a documentary is to make you think and, on occasion, act. In the case of California Typewriter, it prompts me to look at typewriters online. The film’s connection to both the past and possible future is crazy as you reflect on the connection between the typewriter and creativity. In a surprising way it forces you to think, which is above all else the true sign of a fantastic documentary.