IS THE MAN WHO IS TALL HAPPY?: AN ANIMATED CONVERSATION WITH NOAM CHOMSKY
(director/writer: Michel Gondry; cinematographer: Michel Gondry; editors: Adam M. Weber/Sophie Reine; cast: Noam Chomsky, Michel Gondry; Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Raffi Adlan/Georges Bermann/Julie Fong/Michel Gondry; Partizan Films/IFC Films/Sundance Selects; 2013)
“I only wished the well-meaning documentary would have been less cutesy and opened up more doors into Chomsky’s progressive thinking.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
This unique and unwieldy animation documentary offers a spirited series of conversations, taking place over several months, between French-born director Michel Gondry(“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”/”The Science of Sleep”/”The We and The I”) and the noted American 84-year-old anti-war activist, philosopher and MIT linguistic professor, Noam Chomsky. The film is a thought-provoking and lighthearted stab at coming to grips with the linguist’s ideas about language and human cognition and also presents his biography. Gondry poses questions with childish cartoon drawings mostly in pen-and-ink as he tries to put Chomsky’s more abstract theories into a more literal translation. I found the animations annoying, reminding me of bored students doodling during a college lecture, that took away from my concentration to Chomsky’s responses. Also the director’s foreign accent and trouble expressing himself in English were major distractions.
I was disappointed that I got so very little out of this gimmicky project, which would have been probably better served by just having an articulate interviewer (not a talking head!) ask the professor questions.
What’s intellectually enjoyable is when Chomsky expounds on such things as Plato’s Theory of Remembrance, that teaching is laying out a stream of ideas for students to travel in and that modern science since Galileo’s time was revolutionized by questioning things even if they are resolutely accepted. These thoughts all fit in with Chomsky’s maxim:“If you’re willing to be puzzled, you can learn.” I only wished the well-meaning documentary would have been less cutesy and opened up more doors into Chomsky’s progressive thinking.
REVIEWED ON 6/25/2014 GRADE: B