California Typewriter (NR)
Pulitzer Prize winners David McCullough and Sam Shepard, along with Grammy-winning musician John Mayer, testify. "I realized the reason that I was able to come alive on a typewriter, where I wasn't using a computer or even a pen, was that you're at sort of a safe distance, where you can express yourself openly without having to edit yourself at the same time," Mayer says.
Tom Hanks, a collector, weighs in, as does sculptor Jeremy Mayer, who takes apart defunct typewriters from all eras to create steampunk sculptures of animals, people, mandalas and lotus flowers. The artist enjoys a symbiotic relationship with California Typewriter, the shop opened in 1981 by former IBM Selectric serviceman Herbert L. Permillion, which trades its excess machines for his rare parts.
Nichol covers a lot of ground — the machine's history is seen mostly through collectors' obsessive travels — and the film rambles a bit. But it's a compelling look at a valuable contraption that's slipping through our grasp, and will send many viewers to flea markets and eBay for one of their own.