MIFF 2014 review: Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy?

A unique and beguiling conversation between director Michel Gondry and philosopher/linguist Noam Chomsky, hand-animated by Gondry.

Screens August 2, 16

Trailer: Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy?

A series of interviews featuring linguist, philosopher and activist Noam Chomsky done in hand-drawn animation by director Michel Gondry.

French director Michel Gondry – whose teasing, surreal films such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep and Be Kind, Rewind all deal, in various fanciful ways, with the way the brain perceives and receives information – goes head to head with distinguished elderly linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky in the series of interviews that make up this very entertaining documentary. Gondry makes it clear that he considers himself to be sitting at the master’s feet, trying to understand his core linguistic theories, but it is his own running, rolling drawings illustrating the things he has learned that make the film unique and help make it so beguiling. And while Chomsky is clearly a veteran polemicist, something in Gondry’s slightly fey persona obviously chimed with him sufficiently to draw him into less charted waters: his moving memories of his long marriage, his recollections of growing up with atheist parents who were nonetheless enthusiastically Jewish, and his own family’s stoicism when he was in prison balance the impersonal earnestness of his political arguments. On one occasion, Gondry says in his commentary that he feels stupid. Endearing as this admission is, he certainly isn’t.

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