Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?

Directed by Michel Gondry

Starring Michel Gondry and Noam Chomsky

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

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  • ★★★★ review by sprizzle on Letterboxd

    Michel Gondry is an artist. He sees things different than most people, you can see this in any number of his shorts or films. He thinks outside the box and comes up with stuff that evokes a child like response. I think the most evident thing that comes from this animated conversation is that Noam Chomsky is also an artist.

    I love the laziness of this interview. Gondry (at least from the final piece's perspective) sits down with Chomsky and asks him whatever comes to mind. It seems very natural and is accompanied by some splendid little animations. Chomsky mostly takes on philosophical and existential questions but avoids getting too technical.

    What's also evident in this film is Chomsky's love for his experiences as a person. He recites memories from early as one year old, all with a fondness that will make you jealous of this man's exuberance for life. It all really ends up being quite calming and inspiring. We don't have all the answers, obviously, but Chomsky and Gondry show us it's fun to think about.

  • ★★★★ review by William Tell on Letterboxd

    The effort one has to put forth in order to comprehend Noam Chomsky’s philosophical linguistics is easily counterbalanced by Michel Gondry’s wonderfully ingenious drawings. Simple, but never simplistic, and revelatory visual cues are spread on the screen with bright neon colors, developing original and intuitive ways to illustrate the ideas behind Chomsky’s ramblings about a multiplicity of subjects, from language, to human continuity, to nature and perception and human evolution. Is the Man Who is Tall Happy? is quite an inspiring and thought-provoking documentary more about philosophy and linguistic theories than about Chomsky himself, and it’s all the better for it. Focusing on Chomsky’s politics or social life would’ve felt way too much of a compromise, and the film is quite more personal and enjoyable without that approach.

    Gondry brilliantly keeps his audience invested in the awe-inspiring and challenging topics the two personalities discuss, however, the film is quite poorly edited, from a chronological point-of-view, but equally from a logical and continuous perspective. This one aspect could be immensely bettered, and if that were to happen, Is the Man Who is Tall Happy? would simply be one of the most brilliant and original documentaries of the last couple years.

    | Direction: 8,0                               | Sound: 8,0

    | Screenplay: 8,5                           | Editing: 4,0

    | Acting: -                                          | Entertainment: 9,0

    | Visuals: 9,0                                   | Overall Rating: 7,9

  • ★★★★ review by Keith Uhlich on Letterboxd

    Bolex-loving gearhead meets intimidatingly soft-spoken philosoph—a Waking Life I can get behind.

  • ★★★★ review by Jordan Brooks on Letterboxd

    A wonderfully, yet simply animated conversation between visionary director Michel Gondry and philosophical heavyweight Noam Chomsky. A labor of love, Gondry would interview Chomsky, then painstakingly animate the the conversation over the span of a few years, then return to Chomsky for approval, and spark up further discussion. Choosing to illustrate, as to allow his audience to form their own opinions on Chomsky's ideas, Gondry is careful not to spoon feed or force upon his audience any philosophy. Gondry introduces many of the conversations, and he does with the beginning of the film, with insertions of his own thoughts and frustrations overcoming a language barrier and grappling with the challenging and abstract concepts. Indeed, Gondry seems to be the main target of his own film, and the only person he is concerned with convincing. Whether you agree with, or even understand, Chomsky's ideas or outright oppose them, Gondry's surreal and pulsing animations, coupled with stories from Chomsky's life and the inner workings of the human mind, are undoubtedly compelling.

  • ★★★½ review by FilmApe on Letterboxd

    The best thing about the film is the meta commentary on linguistics that occurs naturally during the conversation between Chomsky and Gondry. Gondry tries to explain something to Chomsky, but due to English being Gondry's second language, he has a difficult time placing his thoughts into words. Thus, Gondry uses his rough animated visuals to better explain himself. These bits were pretty interesting and the best parts of the documentary. Unfortunately, I feel that both Chomsky and Gondry get a bit self indulgent at times, and sometimes Chomsky goes off on hard to understand tangents, while Gondry is going off on weird visual tangents. Appreciation for this film comes down to being able to look past these few tangent moments, and just enjoy the conversation that these two interesting men are having. For the most part, I was able to do this.

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