Sunday, October 01, 2017

Thoughts After Seeing California Typewriter

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Post-Script: I experienced one of those rare moments when, stepping outside the theater into the late-day's sunset, I beheld the New Mexico vista spread before me in that golden light, with thoughts from the film still bouncing around inside my head. Upon returning home I immediately brought this old but wonderfully functional 1930 Underwood Portable out into the front patio and proceeded to write as spontaneous of a movie review as I could manage, only finishing after dark to the light of an oil lamp.

There were four people in the theater for this showing, including my wife and I. This is not so much a comment on the film itself as it is on movie-going in general, in the year 2017, with all the other entertainment diversions to choose from. I understand people want to be entertained, want a distraction from their ordinary lives, which popular movies often provide. But this offering, while marketed as a documentary, I feel is more cerebral than most films since, as I indicate in the typecast, it's not as much about typewriters (which it also is) as it is about our relationship with technology; and a relationship that's constantly changing. It takes some thinking to get the gist of, which is perhaps not what people go to movies for. Maybe it takes too much effort to appreciate; but appreciate it I did.

Every criticism I'd read ahead of time about the film - the length, the lack of graphics introducing characters' names, the supposed lack of a unifying theme - I discounted before the film was half over. It doesn't take a student of film criticism to understand that superficial elements are often symbolic of deeper truths. The Eagles' song Hotel California, as I indicate in the typecast, isn't about the west coast hospitality industry; the song's title is a vehicle to something richer. Pink Floyd's The Wall album isn't about the masonry and construction industry, but symbolic of something deeper: the inner walls we erect. Similarly, California Typewriter isn't just about the superficial story of a struggling repair shop in 2017, but has undertones addressing the deeper issues of societal impact from technological change, and our relationship with changing technology over time, and the role of personal creativity. I liked it, and feel all the better for seeing it. I hope you do, too.

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6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks once again for a deeply thoughtful look at your topic, _California Typewriter_. I think you have expanded the value of the movie for all who read this blog.

One note, though: "... the typewriter was perhaps mankind's first cybernetic device, ..." I know you and your audience (me included) are enthusiasts, but let's not be happily or ignorantly isolationist. Let's consider in the same terms: the bicycle, the gun, the steam locomotive, the sewing machine, the portable clock, and others---some of which even afforded self-examination and creativity to individuals. True that the typewriter's contribution to creativity dwarfs those others' but there is great value in keeping things in a wide perspective.

-- Michael Höhne

7:27 AM  
Blogger Bill M said...

Nice review Joe. I did not get to see the movie. Hopefully it will be released on DVD or Blu-ray. As far as the NYT review, I think it was written by someone in high school. Very poorly done.

7:05 PM  
Blogger Richard P said...

Excellent observations. I have seen the film three times now, and keep discovering new resonances. The juxtapositions of scenes, themes, music, etc. are done very well.

As for the audience size, unfortunately, the film has been slotted into small, independent theaters with little advance time or publicity. I bet there are plenty of people in Albuquerque who'd enjoy the movie ... if they ever heard of it.

10:06 PM  
OpenID writelephant.com said...

Would like to see it, but it could be years before it reaches Western Australia, and will it make it to DVD before the DVD becomes obsolete? :)

11:38 PM  
Blogger TomR said...

Sometimes a typewriter is just a typewriter (apologies to Freud). To us aficionados they can be much more, but to 99.999% of the rest of the world they are just...typewriters. Which at least partially explains why you had four people at your CT showing and I had only 14 at mine.

7:43 AM  
Blogger DonN said...

Very thoughtful review, and I haven't even seen the movie. I hope it comes here, but so far no word. I especially liked your comment on the irony of checking a cell phone. While that is pure speculation it makes perfect sense - just look around at any street corner. As useful as a smart phone may be, I have resisted it so far. But how do we resist change when we aren't aware of what it's doing to us? Give everyone a typewriter? Michael's here is selling typewriters ($180). I asked the girl at the desk if I could look at the box. They have them behind the counter, like they might get stolen! She started reading off the carton: it says it does more than just type, she said, it can do cards, envelopes... Is that ironic?!

12:52 PM  

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~Joe

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