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How do you make an entertaining documentary about the linguist, philosopher, author and leftist icon Noam Chomsky without interviewing anyone except Chomsky and without featuring archival footage? If you're director Michel Gondry, the answer is obvious: use animation, specifically simplistic hand-drawn animation to literally animate the film "Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?""Once I had an idea, I just had to carry it out -- but sometimes, I was not sure where it was going. What I would do -- not all the time but most of the time -- was I would play a line of his dialogue, pick a segment and play it in a loop to influence the drawings some of the animations," Gondry recently told Indiewire's Eric Kohn. "Because they were abstract, it allowed me to illustrate what I was saying. I would not portray that by trying to explain it in a illustrative »
- Paula Bernstein
Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? is a profoundly simple film, at least on paper. Michel Gondry sits down to talk with Noam Chomsky and makes it into a movie. The topics include Chomsky’s theories of linguistics, his early childhood, his ideas around the linguistics of early childhood, and a number of other wide-reaching but related subjects. Unadorned, such a documentary would be eminently watchable, if perhaps a bit tedious. Yet what Gondry has actually created is one of the most beautifully complex films of the year, and he does it entirely by way of hand-drawn animation. It’s a meeting of disciplines, one that takes a discussion of language and perception and uses its artistic sensibility to point out that maybe art and science are almost the same thing. With Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?, Gondry has attempted to animate the mind. Animation and verbal discussion are equals here, and »
Doc NYC's Closing Night Gala World Premiere screening of Michel Gondry's graphic Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy? An Animated Conversation With Noam Chomsky and a Special Event presentation by Jonathan Franzen of Emptying The Skies ended the 4th edition of the festival on a high note at the Sva Theatre in Chelsea.
Emptying The Skies, directed by Douglas Kass, based on Jonathan Franzen's 2011 essay for The New Yorker, begins with the novelist's life-changing realisation that it is "a bird-filled world" we live in for now. The film follows a group of noble and brave members of Cabs, the Committee Against Bird Slaughter in their travels to the Republic of Cyprus, Malta, France, »
- Anne-Katrin Titze
Glenn here to discuss a true one of a kind film. That it's directed by Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) should make that statement come as little surprise, but surprised I was. The film has the unwieldy, and yet simple and effectively evocative, title of Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?: An Animated Conversation with Noam Chomsky. Needless to say, despite being animated, Gondry's film is not planning a head to head box office battle royale with Disney's Frozen (which we're going to discuss very soon).
Another arena where the two will not face off is the Academy's Animated Feature category. Despite clearing the animation percentage bar with ease, and beautifully so too for that matter - it's certainly the most incomparable and charming animation of the year - the film was not submitted. It is, however, on the longlist for documentary features, but so »
- Glenn Dunks
In the toon documentary “Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?,” conversations between helmer Michel Gondry and philosopher/linguist/political activist Noam Chomsky become very animated indeed, as the director’s rapidly moving pencil adapts Chomsky’s discourse — and Gondry’s own reactions to it — into images. Using a deliberately doodle-y, childish drawing style, Gondry frees up the relationship between a word and what it represents, either by transforming turns of phrase into absurdly literal visual gags, or by making free-form associations that illustrate Chomsky’s central ideas about language. Simultaneously light-hearted and thought-provoking, this felicitous meeting of minds should appeal to fans of both men.
Though the term “animated documentary” might seem oxymoronic (Gondry admits that the project’s contradictory nature was largely what attracted him to begin with), the “real audio” docu, whereby cartoonists visually riff on prerecorded monologues and conversations, has become a commonplace toon subgenre. In the film, »
- Ronnie Scheib
You would think having worked with Michel Gondry, Todd Solondz, Jonathan Levine, Todd Field, Curtis Hanson, Robert Altman, Alan Rudolph, Paul Schrader and more, there might be a little more love out there for Jane Adams. And yet, the actress always seems severely underrated (she was pretty fantastic on the short-lived, equally underrated HBO series "Hung") and it looks like she's drawn on her Hollywood status (or lack of it) for "All The Light In The Sky," the latest effort from workaholic director Joe Swanberg. Adams co-wrote the screenplay in which she plays an actress, living in Malibu, dealing with her increasing age and the lack of acting opportunities that come with it (sound familiar?). And when her niece drops by for a visit (played by Sophia Takal), insecurities, fears and much more rise to the surface. And the new trailer below promises an intimate and affably loose film, which looks pretty charming all around, »
- Kevin Jagernauth
Two highly unique minds converge in Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?, the latest from whimsical visionary Michel Gondry, who aptly subtitles his film, “An Animated Conversation with Noam Chomsky.” In the works for four years, this self-explanatory project from the artist behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Dave Chapelle’s Block Party, and a veritable library of music videos is a charming and markedly low-tech doc that literally illustrates the insights of Chomsky, one of the greatest thinkers of our time. Ever-fascinated by the depths of the human brain, and ever-faithful in dressing his films with cartoon-like touches, […] »
- R. Kurt Osenlund
Few filmmakers stretch the genre spectrum quite like Michel Gondry, whose directorial resume includes an Oscar-nominated romantic drama (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), a superhero blockbuster (The Green Hornet), a hip-hop concert film (Dave Chapelle's Block Party) and an episode of Jimmy Kimmel Live!. Gondry leaves it up to his imagination, following his dreams and obsessions down whatever path they pave. His latest film is both unexpected yet perfectly fitting to the colorful auteur's sensibilities. Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? is a documentary on scientist/linguist/political activist/writer Noam Chomsky, whose Renaissance Man philosophies mesmerized Gondry. The
- Matt Patches
As soon as I heard that the man who wrote and directed some of my favorite films of the 2000s (Michel Gondry) was making a documentary about my favorite contemporary philosopher (Noam Chomsky), I was convinced that it was a match made in celluloid -- well, digital -- heaven. Gondry wanted to record a series of video interviews with Chomsky, knowing full well that the 80-something MIT linguist would probably not live forever. Obviously intimidated and in awe of Chomsky, Gondry seems almost like a star-struck young boy meeting his hero for the first time. During the film, Gondry repeatedly gets lost inside in his own head, dragging us down the rabbit holes with him. From the get-go, Gondry tries to wrap his brain around philosophical questions that are much too large for a 90-minute film, but that is sort of his point. Maybe. Well, at least I think it is. »
- Don Simpson
Twice in 2010, director Michel Gondry met with Noam Chomsky for a series of conversations about the philosopher, linguist, and author’s childhood in Philadelphia and his theory of generative grammar. The film that resulted, “Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy?,” gives no reason beyond curiosity for this collaboration, but it is all we need — how else should any worthy project be assembled? “If you’re willing to be puzzled, you’re able to learn,” Chomsky says at one point. To his credit (and without affectation), Gondry doesn’t cloak the fact that he is often perplexed by his subject. Because of his confusion though, we are able to learn quite a lot. Part of that immersion is due to the film’s one-off nature. Without sounding rude, no one specifically asked Gondry to create a 16mm animated documentary about one of society’s most prominent thinkers. Rather, as he explains, »
- Charlie Schmidlin
As much as I admire filmmaker Michel Gondry and the audaciously transparent concept behind his Noam Chomsky filmed interview "Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?", his idea of animating a documentary to reveal its inherent fakery is counterproductive. This is one of those five obstructions situations. For starters, this hugely creative and brainy director who speaks English with a strong French accent is narrating his own movie. So in order to make sure you understand him he adds handwritten English titles. That's one distraction. He's using an old camera that he has to draw each time he uses it, he thinks, in order to explain its noisiness. (See the Nyt Anatomy of a Scene video below.) He's also conducting his own interviews with one of the smartest men ever, the linguist Noam Chomsky (84), about very complex ideas. And you can't see the interviews because the live-action film portion of »
- Anne Thompson
French filmmaker Michel Gondry’s ingenious new hand-animated documentary, Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?, takes an imaginative look at the life of controversial MIT professor, philosopher, linguist, anti-war activist and political firebrand Noam Chomsky. Complex, lively conversations with Chomsky accompanied by innovative, often playful illustrations by Gondry reveal the life and work of the father of modern linguistics and explore his theories on the emergence of language. The film is both a beautifully animated work of art and a vivid portrait of one of the foremost thinkers of modern times and its unique visual style broadens the concept of documentary filmmaking. In an exclusive interview, Gondry talked about the inspiration behind his visually inventive juxtaposition of animation and documentary, how he used hand-drawn illustrations and humor to bring to life a series of intellectually stimulating interviews with Chomsky on a variety of complex topics, and why he hopes »
- Sheila Roberts
The prospect of holding ones weight conversationally with one of the world's most prominent thinkers is daunting enough, but in sitting down with cognitive scientist and activist Noam Chomsky for the animated documentary “Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy?,” director Michel Gondry chooses a personal path through the intellectual distance. Illustrating Chomsky’s ideas on linguistics and his childhood memories via Gondry’s hand-drawn 16mm animation, the film is at once dense and incredibly playful, packed with the “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” director’s trademark visuals and Chomsky’s logical clarity whether explaining the emergence of language or simply what makes him happy. We sat down recently with Gondry to discuss the film, his decision to cut down his latest effort “Mood Indigo,” and why Roman Polanski shoots Paris better than any French director—but first Gondry described how his path crossed that of Chomsky in the first place. »
- Charlie Schmidlin
Michel Gondry is no stranger to experimentation. In the past five years, he has made a big studio adaptation of "The Green Hornet," a documentary about his aunt called "The Thorn in the Heart," the real time story of some Queens high schoolers on the bus "The We and the I," and the fantasy drama "Mood Indigo." Even so, his latest completed project is unique: Solely consisting of a conversation between the filmmaker and noted linguist Noam Chomsky, "Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?" relies on Gondry's hand drawn animations and voiceover to explore Chomsky's rich theories of language. The movie, which closes the Doc NYC festival this week, will be released by IFC Films on Friday. Gondry spoke to Indiewire about his experience with the project and how it compares to both his recent work as well as his earlier music videos. In the movie, you state a »
- Eric Kohn
Michel Gondry‘s new documentary, Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?, is nothing more than a collection of conversations with renowned philosopher Noam Chomsky, accompanied by the filmmaker’s drawn-over animation. Luckily, this is more than enough, thanks to Chomsky’s fascinating point of view and Gondry’s endless curiosity. We are watching two very fascinating, very different minds interact, [...] »
- Dan Mecca
Michel Gondry likes video stores. He is, after all, the director of the ultimate VHS sonnet, Be Kind Rewind, in which Jack Black and Mos Def re-create classics like Ghostbusters from plastic bags and tinsel. (Sad about the death of Blockbuster? Give it a watch.)
One night, Gondry was browsing his local store for tapes to rent when he seized upon two Noam Chomsky documentaries: Manufacturing Consent and Rebel Without a Cause. He didn't know much about the 84-year-old linguist and agitator. "Sometimes I pick videos for no reason," shrugs Gondry. "It's true, I'm ignorant — and I'm French, so I have an excuse."
Superficially, the two men couldn't be more different. Gondry is the impish romantic behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotles »
At one point in "Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? An Animated Conversation With Noam Chomsky," Michel Gondry's free-roaming animated portrait of his discussions with the famed MIT linguist, the filmmaker makes it clear that the chief audience he hopes to please is his subject. Gondry, who narrates the documentary throughout, explains his desire during production to complete the project before the octogenarian Chomsky dies. The revolutionary thinker, who turns 85 this December, showed no signs of a premature departure, but Gondry's admission suggests the deadline mainly reflects his own mortal fears. It's a tender observation that taps into the self-defined urgency behind his creative drive, providing a reminder that the capricious nature of his work obscures far more substantial philosophical inquiry. It also connects the seemingly loose, blithe style of Gondry's hand drawn framing device with the typically pensive Chomsky at the story's center. A rather bizarre mismatch on paper, »
- Eric Kohn
Wedged between international documentary mega-fests Cph:dox and Idfa on the festival calendar, this country’s largest documentary film fest Doc NYC might seem a humble affair. (Indeed, the four-year-old Doc NYC is downright cozy and laidback compared to Amsterdam’s industry-driven shindig where making sales often eclipses enjoying the sheer pleasure of cinema.) This year’s lineup features 131 films and events, including 11 world premieres and 9 Us premieres – not to mention high-caliber attendees from Noam Chomsky to Michel Gondry, to Sarah Polley and Oliver Stone. Yet several small gems that I’ve written about at prior fests are every bit as […] »
- Lauren Wissot
Featuring documentaries about an eclectic mix of subjects: from an unknown photographer and a family-owned strip club to missionaries in Rwanda and the 90s indie film scene, this year's Doc NYC lineup touches on the personal and political. "The films range from profound and mysterious to humorous and sexually provocative," said Doc NYC's artistic director Thom Powers, who also programs for the Toronto International Film Festival and curates Doc Club on SundanceNOW. In its fourth year, Doc NYC, now the largest documentary festival in the U.S., will host panels and events featuring Errol Morris, Sarah Polley, Oliver Stone, Michel Gondry, Ricki Lake, Jonathan Franzen, Grace Lee Boggs, Jehane Moujaim and other filmmakers. With such a wealth of rich material, it wasn't easy to pare down the list of 132 films being shown at Doc NYC to these 10 titles and they are by no means the only films worth seeing. Check »
Los Cabos – Three awaited Mexican movies – “Mexico’s Most Wanted,” “Flying Low” and “Natural Philosophy of Love” – all world preem at the 2nd Baja International Film Festival whose Hollywood industry presence underscores that the U.S. is at least beginning to take Mexico’s talent pool more seriously.
Baja’s U.S. presence includes Jeff Skoll’s Participant Media, agencies CAA, Paradigm, Management 360, investor Palmstar Media Capital/Merced Media Partners and sales agents Voltage Pictures, Panorama Media, Xyz Films, FiGa Films and Shoreline Entertainment.
Produced by Billy and Fernando Rovzar’s Lemon Films (“After Lucia,” “Saving Private Perez”), “Mexico’s Most Wanted” is Im Global/Canana’s Mundial first third-party sales pick-up out of Canana’s native Mexico.
A propulsive crime thriller, “Wanted” also reps Lemon’s »
- John Hopewell
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