This is one of those films that critics rave about, partially because of clever brilliance in the film’s presentation, but mostly because it is the type of film that makes you look intelligent and hip for claiming to enjoy it. I’ll be completely honest, I had little interest in Noam Chomsky prior to this film and despite some clever animation helping retain some semblance of entertainment, Is the Man Who is Tall Happy? did little to convince me otherwise. At times it merely tries too hard, but the bottom line is that I found the linguist discussion more pretentious than significant to my existence.
This is my opinion, because I am obviously not a study of Chomsky’s work, but I imagine that this would make for a completely different viewing experience for anyone more familiar with his ideas. I could give a description of the concepts that he covers within the film, but I would not be able to do it justice. At the same time, I couldn’t help but feel that the ideas they discuss are not nearly as profound as I imagined from the man called a foremost think of modern times.
I am also somewhat cynical of the filmmaking choices by director and interviewer Michel Gondry. He inserts himself into the center of the film when he assumes the role of interviewer, which would be fine without the constant vane need to address the audience with asides. He even remarks about his own filmmaking choice, nearly deciding to switch cameras halfway through the interview (even though very little footage is actually shown), and then deciding not to switch. I’m not sure why he felt the need to address this, other than to point out that it was a mistake to film snippets of Chomsky with the noisiest camera available.
Then there is the animation, which is certainly more compelling that watching Chomsky or Gondry for the entire interview. This is easily the strongest element of filmmaking at play here, helping to blend the gaps in the interview and a somewhat shoddily established idea for a film. The DVD special features include an animated making-of featurette, additional interviews and Q&A sessions about the film. There is also a trailer.
Entertainment Value: 5.5/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 6/10
Historical Significance: 4/10