The human rights activist, linguist, modern philosopher and cognitive scientist Noam Chomsky has become renowned for two things: his incredibly bright ideas and his unwaveringly laborious approach to interviews.
And while he once responded to a criticism of his boring speaking style by saying, “We don’t want to be swayed by superficial eloquence, by emotion and so on,” sometimes a bit of colour can help to make good ideas more palatable to the listener.
So, since the 84-year-old Chomsky refused to add vibrancy to his oratory style, Michel Gondry, the French director best known for his work on the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, dipped his fingers into the digital rainbow and proceeded to colour between the rigid lines of logic crafted by the celebrated academic. And this project culminated in a 90-minute documentary called Is the Man who is Tall Happy?.
During the making of the film, the two sat down for an interview, during which Noam Chomsky responded to questions in his usual style. Instead of sparring with the philosopher on an intellectual level, Gondry listened to the responses and sketched what he heard.
The resultant drawings, all presented in the style of a university student’s doodles, give a visual, often literal, representation of the ideas being discussed.
Gondry’s drawings, while being thought provoking, are in many ways child-like, and this is likely a product of the director’s fascination with the difference between adult and juvenile approaches to thinking.
In a sense Gondry posits himself as the child attempting to process the thoughts of Chomsky, the adult. And this approach shifts Chomsky’s thinking from the abyss of academic esotericism to the realm of pop culture, where it could, potentially, influence a greater number of people.