IS THE MAN WHO IS TALL HAPPY? by Michel Gondry
Wow, the theatre is almost packed. Average age is around or even under 30 and several hipster beards are in sight. I suspect these are fans of either Gondry or Noam Chomsky or both… or linguistic students at least. This film is namely basically a dialogue between the two – filmed over three visits, it seems – but you only see Chomsky (or Gondry) in little vignettes or inserts in the almost entirely animated pictures.
Certainly Gondry is a fan of Chomsky and he sets out to make a film about some of his theories and thoughts. He wants to make an entertaining film on epistemology and philosophy which is a highly appreciative idea, but I’m not quite sure he succeeds completely.
Let me see if I can explain why to myself. Can I see if I can explain why to myself?
The title refers to a linguistic puzzle which apparently shows that even a child can change the sentenceo “The man who is tall is happy” into a question by picking the right “is” (the second, not the first) and put it in the beginning of the sentence. This is actually very interesting but like most of the theories and ideas that are covered, the amount of words and animations are so overwhelming that we hardly get a chance to think for ourselves. It becomes almost like a lecture, which I am pretty sure was not Gondry’s idea.
He does manage to bring us to understand his project in an almost pedagogical (yet also self-ironical and amusing) way and there are also traces of a structure. For instance, his first question to Chomsky is what his first memory of his life is and towards the end they talk about (to the extent Chomsky wants to talk about it) his life as a widower. A lot of the interpretative illustrations of the words – which is to a large degree what the film’s pictures are – are indeed very clever, but there is just too much of it and too little time for reflection or thinking about your own first memories. So even though the entire form doesn’t suggest it, maybe the director’s respect of his main character and his words is too big after all?
The reviewer who is confused is somewhat happy, but is the spectator who is confused also happy? I saw nobody leaving the theatre during the screening but afterwards there was a lot of perplexed mumbling going on around me. But go see it yourself – it will do you good somehow.