Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?: movie review

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It’s a delightfully odd pairing—philosopher-activist Noam Chomsky sits down with filmmaker Michel Gondry for an extended conversation. What do the father of modern linguistics and the man best known for helming the Charlie Kaufman–penned romantic fantasy Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) have to talk about? Plenty, it turns out, much of it predictably heady (you wouldn’t expect the origins of human language to be an uncomplicated subject).

Yet this is no dry dorm-room bull session: Much like Richard Linklater’s cerebral Waking Life (2001), almost every frame of the film is animated. Gondry’s delightful stick-figure drawings—such as a living question mark ascending a staircase made of Whys—ably illustrate Chomsky’s concepts. However, they also act as a hilarious way for the director to confess his own novice befuddlement in the shadow of this prodigious intellect. “I felt a bit stupid here,” Gondry says in one instance, surely expressing what many in the audience are likely to feel in the flow of Chomsky’s musings. The point, of course, is to get lost. As the soft-spoken sage himself notes, “The world is a very puzzling place.” What a pleasure it is, the film suggests, to be perpetually befuddled.

Follow Keith Uhlich on Twitter: @keithuhlich

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Director: Michel Gondry
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