Michel Gondry makes his audience wait for some time between projects, but when they arrive, they’re always something. Even if that something isn’t always an instant, all time classic like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, it can be a surreal Science of Sleep or a bizarrely heartfelt Be Kind Rewind. And, occasionally, something ugly and aggressive like The Green Hornet… hopefully that’s a rare misstep, because his latest film, a collaboration with writer and linguist Noam Chomsky, retains Gondry’s usual whimsy and warmth while adding Chomsky’s refined intelligence and verbal elegance. Built from a long, freewheeling interview/conversation between the two men, Is the Man Who is Tall Happy? is a painstakingly handcrafted animated documentary that explores Chomsky’s life and how he became an one of the leading voices in American philsophy, linguistics, politics, and activism.
Gondry’s animation takes Chomsky’s language and literally brings it to life, with words and concepts illustrated by the simple, ever-moving drawings that are lit from behind like the world’s most charming Lite-Brite. Like all of Gondry’s films, this one bridges the physical world and imagination, putting metaphor side-by-side with reality and abstracting it beautifully. While this film may be built out of a simple conversation across a table, as this trailer shows, this might be one of the most visually inventive films of the year. Ultimately, that’s what makes Gondry a fantastic director. He has he ability to traverse genres and styles without ever losing his sensibilities. In a way, this film looks like it will also be a slightly twisted love story: the love between the young Chomsky and the knowledge he’s aquired, the interply between Gondry and Chomsky as they discuss all manner of subjects.
The film will open on November 22nd to a limited release.