Is the Man Who is Tall Happy? is a film by Michel Gondry (writer, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) in which he interviews famed linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky. During the interview, hand drawn animations created by Gondry depict Chomsky’s answers. Every so often, a small frame, inset in the animation, will show Chomsky as he is speaking. Their conversation delves into various alleyways, namely his philosophy on language and how we understand the concepts of the world through words and symbols.
The entire documentary is essentially the chancefor Gondry to pick Chomsky’s brain. As such, the film doesn’t have a strict narrative, so the major takeaways must come from the animation, Chomsky’s profundity, and Gondry’s adeptness at interviewing.
Beginning with the animation, it is simple yet elegant. This is a visually beautiful film, especially for something as basic as an interview documentary. However, there are times when the drawing growing in front of our eyes is distracting, where you want to follow Chomsky’s every word but it is impossible because lines and colors are constantly moving across the screen. Additionally, there are scenes in which a single animation is looped for two or three minutes straight, which causes said scenes to lull and become boring. There is a moment in which Gondry admits that he is looping an animation for the sake of making his job as an animator easier. Although I understand his difficulty in crafting this film, this moment comes off more as an excuse than anything else. It doesn’t make up for the fact that these scenes are a plateau in the otherwise vibrant landscapes that Gondry conjures up. These instances aside, the animation is great and often times humorous.
Gondry shows a lot of humility in this film. He often steps away from the interview to explain what his intentions were for a given question when that question had failed to get through to Chomsky the way Gondry had intended. Perhaps the movie shows that Gondry isn’t the best person to be delving into Chomsky’s mindscape, but, then again, who is? Chomsky is clearly a brilliant person, and his mind is on full display here. He truly has fascinating things to say, and even when he misinterprets Gondry’s meaning with a question he still manages to bring up great philosophical ideas.
There isn’t much going on in this film. It is a deeply philosophical conversation between two people. That’s all. The animations are satisfying for the most part, although at times they are repetitive or distracting. Aside from this, I found it pretty fascinating. Chomsky is a very smart man. Gondry crafted some appealing animations. It’s a worthwhile watch if you enjoy thinking about life and how we define the things of the world.
As always, thanks for reading!
Have you seen Is The Man Who is Tall Happy? If so, what did you think? What do you think of Chomsky’s philosophies? Let me know in the comments!
–Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)