20130311

is the man who is tall happy?

Is the Man Who is Tall Happy? The poster
This is why one can be in love with MIT. On February I was lucky to be present at this free advance screening, followed by a Q&A session with Director Michel Gondry and MIT Professor Noam Chomsky. Is the Man Who is Tall Happy? is an animated documentary on the life of MIT professor and linguist Noam Chomsky. Directed by Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep), the film features a series of conversations between Gondry and Chomsky as they explore the life and work of Noam Chomsky. The event was organized by Animated Matters (Edwina Portocarrero and David Roberts) from MIT Media Lab. 

Edwina Portocarrero and David Roberts, Animated Matters, MIT Media Lab
An animated conversation, still image from trailer
Gondry went to MIT (Stata) twice, still image from trailer
Gondry's sketching process, photo during the screening
Gondry's sketching process, photo during the screening

Cognitive Science, still image from trailer







































In the words of the director: 
"My conversations with Professor Chomsky were lively, sometime complex, always very human. Through my illustrations, we follow the winding path of my halting and incomplete understanding. Noam is often patient, sometime less so. The trail always follows unexpected bends. The process and logic of Noam's stream of ideas have determined the transitions and evolution of my drawings. The concept of 'animated documentary' finds a perfect justification here. At the heart of the conversation, we encounter Noam's theory of the emergence of language. Listening to Noam discuss this topic made we wonder what it would have been like to meet the astronomer Edwin Hubble and listen to him talk about the red shift he observed from distant galaxies and how it led to the theory of the big bang. Maybe that is a weak comparison, but it is another way of simply saying I felt privileged to have this dialogue. In the end, what will stay the most with me in these discussions is Noam Chomsky's humanity, the way he respects people's different ways of life, their beliefs - and, above all, the way he often includes his wife, Carol Chomsky, in the conversations, and in some way keeps her alive and next to him."
Chomsky in the documentary, event advertisement photo
Q & A, Photo Credits: Dimitris Papanikolaou

Q & A, Photo Credits: Dimitris Papanikolaou

Q & A and the crowd, Photo Credits: Dimitris Papanikolaou










Gondry is known not only from his movies but also from many of his video-clips for Kylie Minogue and Bjork, and Levi's ads among other short films. He is often interested in the relationship between the real and the surreal world, multiple realities, dreams and sleeping, brain and emotions among other very intriguing notions. The use of sketches in the documentary marked clearly (and intentionally) his subjective interpretation of Noam Chomsky's words and life. Some moments, like the one in which he would fight with Chomsky about topics and speech interruption, as well as the time he would question him regarding the relationship with his wife were very intense and brilliantly described through the illustrations. I found the balance between literal illustrations to more abstract ones quite helpful in order to be able to follow the thickness and seriousness of some of the ideas presented. 

Note: Some of the content of this post was first found HERE and HERE. Click the links for more info and trailer.

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