Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? (2013) (Not Rated)
To give it its full title "Is the Man Who is Tall Happy?: An Animated Conversation with Noam Chomsky" hardly seems like a movie that many would seek out. It's completely centered, surrounding one man's work and another man's obsession. Noam Chomsky, considered to be one of the greatest minds of our time, is interviewed with acclaimed director Michel Gondry who is probably best known for his cerebral movie "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and his nonsensical and not-so-praised "The Green Hornet".
But here, whether he was intending to come across that way or not, Gondry appears as a man with something to prove. He tells us at the beginning of the movie that films can often lie to us. The manipulation of edits and cuts can turn a phrase. The actors will not often know what they are doing—it's up to the men behind the scenes who will cater the scenes to their liking. When you watch a film, you are looking at the director's vision.
Gondry wanted the film to be to his liking, but he didn't want a manipulative picture. He wanted a film that was exactly what it appeared to be—in this case, a conversation with a very smart man. Animation seems like the perfect medium for Gondry, it suits his vision well.
Chomsky and Gondry sit at a table and they talk. They talk about life, love, and pursuit of happiness—all cliches included.
Chomsky talks about his education and his road to linguistics.
The movie covers such a broad number of topics that it would be senseless to try to write them all down. They speak on continuity, learning, and instincts—in most every case Gondry's animation (which was painstakingly carried out over two years) helps the words of Chomsky.
But these two didn't get along fantastically. Chomsky comes across as arrogant and Gondry can be too self-aware.
Many interviews into the movie, "Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?" takes on its true purpose—it is a labor of love.
There is no sense in watching this movie is you don't respect both Chomsky and Gondry. I was mainly interested in the film for its avant-garde style and the director.
Gondry dips into sentimentalism many times. Chomsky lost his wife and refuses to talk about how he feels. His heart is still broken.
So Gondry animates the two young lovers riding bicycles and walking hand-in-hand down the street with soft music playing in the background.
Yet it all came across to me—and this is most likely not the reaction that Gondry wanted—Chomsky's life seems pointless. Sure he was smart and sure I respect him—but he is so conscious about his own words and thoughts that I doubt if he was ever truly happy. If he did get grasp that emotion, he denies it to himself, telling Gondry that few things have ever made him happy.
"Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy" is painful to watch because we see what Gondry put into the picture. It's also a bit tedious.
But in the end, it is successful if only for painting an odd and revealing look into two men's lives—not for the philosophies that it discusses.
Score: 3 out of 4 stars
Posted by Micah Jones