Review: Enthusiasts weigh in on ‘The Typewriter (in the 21st Century)’

Author Robert Caro in "The Typewriter (in the 21st Century)."
(Christopher Lockett)

The death of the typewriter has been greatly exaggerated, at least according to the fun, compact love letter of a documentary “The Typewriter (in the 21st Century).” Thus, it may be a surprise to learn that while the computer, the iPad and other modern writing technologies have largely swallowed the typewriter business whole, a sizable number of fans, users, fixers and purveyors still exist.

Director-cinematographer Christopher Lockett unearths quite an assortment of spokespeople to wax poetic on behalf of the once-ubiquitous typewriter. Such prize-winning authors as Robert Caro and David McCullough, various collectors, journalists (including former L.A. Times reporter Alex Pham) and “typosphere” bloggers, plus an eclectic array of active typewriter repairmen all warmly celebrate their predilection for their vintage Royals, Underwoods and Smith-Coronas. Several “poets on demand,” a few teen enthusiasts and even a musician who uses the 19th-century invention as a percussion instrument also weigh in.

Although the movie is mostly dominated by these talking heads, and punctuated by only bits of archival clips and other fleeting visuals, Lockett keeps things moving quickly and enjoyably.

On the downside, he eschews seemingly essential chats with any naysayers who could compare the typewriter’s real-world impracticality to a computer’s speed, versatility and connectivity. An interview with at least one busy, format-dependent screenwriter would have spoken volumes. Final Draft for typewriter, anyone?



“The Typewriter (in the 21st Century).” No MPAA Rating. Running time: 57 minutes. At the Downtown Independent, Los Angeles.