People who love typewriters--you know who you are--shouldn't tap the space bar once, let alone twice, before rushing to see Doug Nichol's agile, deeply affectionate documentary California Typewriter. But anyone who loves machines, poetry or, better yet, the poetry of machines should see it too.
Nichol has sought out people who cherish and use these marvelous machines regularly, including the late, great Sam Shepard (who loved his Swiss-made 1960s Hermes, which his son found at a swap meet) and Tom Hanks (who makes the case, upper and lower, for the typewritten thank-you note over the facile, dashed-off email). But the movie's true star is Ken Alexander, ace repairman at the 68-year-old Berkeley, Calif., shop from which the film takes its name. Here Alexander explains why, if forced to choose, Smith Corona would be his favorite make: "I like 'em because they got a cool, nice touch on 'em. I think a Smith Corona is like a good version of a Chevy. It holds up." Now that's poetry. Exclamation mark.