A film about a typeface? Yes. And not just for typophiles. Gary Hustwit's witty, provocative, and unexpectedly entertaining documentary about Helvetica, the clean, smooth, durable set of letters which sprang from Switzerland's Haas Type Foundry 50 years ago and rapidly conquered the world of public words, is a fascinating exploration of graphic design and visual culture. As the film's footage of the signs and advertisements that crowd any city street reveals, Helvetica is so ubiquitous we barely notice it. From American Airlines to the Gap, it is a preferred partner in corporate identities; from the signage in New York's subway system to marquees and guideposts across the globe, its easy-to-read, neutral presence orients people with calm authority. Long before personal computers made the phrase known to everyone, Helvetica was an international, all-purpose "default font," inspiring both admiration and disdain among designers (in the film, Lars M�ller calls it "the perfume of the city," while Paula Sher reports that she first regarded it as part of "some conspiracy of my mother's to make me keep the house clean"). Interviewing a stellar cast of designers and typographers, including Erik Spiekermann, Wim Crouwel, Hermann Zapf, David Carson, Tobias Frere-Jones, and Matthew Carter (who offers a swift, intriguing description of the initial steps in designing a typeface), Hustwit composes a vivid tapestry of ideas that is stimulating, surprising, and absolutely delightful. If you've ever been tantalized by the range of fonts your computer puts at your fingertips, you'll be captivated by this splendid film. -

April 24: "[The HST] lifted a curtain from our view of the universe, changing it so profoundly that no human can look at the stars in the same way..."

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysley Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
In the Light of What We Know

Zia Haider Rahman's mystery of a brilliant Bangladeshi mathematician's past barrels through the Ivy League, London high finance, and spy-haunted Afghanistan in a page-turning tale of exile, intrigue and the price of friendship. A Discover Great New Writers selection.

The People's Platform

Once touted as the foundation for tomorrow's digital democracy, the Internet is increasingly ruled by a few corporate giants, while millions of contributors till its fields for free. Astra Taylor looks at why the web has failed to deliver a communitarian cyberscape, and offers a compelling case for restoring its original vision.

A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.