I am a sucker for this kind of film. California Typewriter celebrates the durable, once-ubiquitous device that computers put out of business and the grass-roots spirit that drives people like Tom Hanks, John Mayer, and the late Sam Shepard to do their writing on these venerable machines. It also tells the parallel story of an Oakland, California typewriter repair shop and the uncertain future it faces, along with its resident fix-it genius, Herbert Permillion II.
It’s one thing for someone like Hanks to collect vintage typewriters (he has 250) and extoll their virtues. It’s another for someone to eke out a living paying rent for a storefront that serves as home base for a man who knows typewriters inside out. Is there really a future for such a modest enterprise?
One could accuse writer-director Doug Nichol of preaching to the choir, but I’m sure there are many people who have never used or considered a typewriter. In that sense, California Typewriter offers food for thought. It also introduces us to a variety of proud individualists and eccentrics, including an artist who fashions wonderful creations out of old typewriter parts.
California Typewriter is now playing in New York and will open in Los Angeles sometime in September, with more cities to follow. Check out the official website HERE.
It’s no coincidence that I am drawn to documentaries like this. Let me also put in a plug for The 78 Project Movie by Alex Steyermark, in which two intrepid music lovers crisscross the country getting musicians to perform for a 1930s Presto Direct-to-disc recording machine.
Then there’s Douglas Wilson’s Linotype: The Film, another paean to iconoclasts who love setting type and using old-fashioned technology instead of computers. You can stream both films on Amazon and iTunes.