What would happen if - as the credits began to roll on Gary Hustwit’s surprise hit of 2007, HELVETICA (Spirit Award nominated, self-distributed, “the film about a font”) - you stood up and found out that it was just an intermission? A “let’s go out to the lobby” moment, wherein you grab your popcorn or your copy of Dwell Magazine, used the facilities or grabbed a smoke and then returned for Act 2?
Welcome to Hustwit’s OBJECTIFIED, a film that plays – in thought, word and deed – as sequel, continuing saga and seamless transition from the world of font design into industrial design. And as Hustwit announced at the world premiere screening in Austin, this is part two of (at least) 3 in a design series. I can’t remember another nonfiction filmmaker who has so purposefully created a second film that moves, breathes and observes as specifically as his first.
OBJECTIFIED Director Gary Hustwit in Austin Sunday afternoon.
While not the surprise that HELVETICA was – who knew that font could be the most beloved, hated and invasive design motif our time (just look at this blog) – OBJECTIFIED successfully continues Hustwit’s design franchise and ably encourages its audience to take a second look at the world around them. While the conflict is lessened in movie number 2 (flamboyant designer Karim Rashid is one of the few to advocate a philosophical debate), we are still encouraged to observe our world (particularly our tchotchkes - bonus points if you know the German word for that) in a new way, which we remain convinced is what all great nonfiction should do.
Certainly in the days and hours after we watched the world premiere on Saturday, our own sense of the world - that iPhone in our pocket, the lamp in the elevator at the hotel - has been affected by our viewing of OBJECTIFIED.
In his introduction in Austin, Hustwit said that he made OBJECTIFIED because he still had questions to ask about design. I believe him because he’s a talented artist. But a smart man – and Hustwit is certainly that – also knows when he’s filling an underserved niche. An SRO afternoon crowd at the Paramount attested to this fact. Few filmmakers have self-distributed their film to $200,000 in theatrical box office (not including screening fees for design conferences and special appearances around the world), and Hustwit surely knows that a second (and third) film can reach a similar audience, if done with same level of skill - already, Hustwit has lined up screenings around the world (London, Chicago, San Francisco are among those that are already SOLD OUT). All the more reason for Hustwit to tap his HELVETICA Director of Photography Luke Geissbuhler, whose clean, composed cinematography is a perfect fit for the subject matter.
One should probably assume that part three will look and sound nearly the same as part one and two (why tempt fate?) – and I will more than gladly stand in line at SXSW 2011 (just a hunch) for that film. But as a fan of Gary’s filmmaking, I’m also dreaming of film number four, waiting for the surprise of the new that I fully expects lies right around the corner.
(Full disclosure: Hustwit’s company, Plexifilm, distributed my first film, GIGANTIC.)