Watch Michel Gondry Animate Philosopher, Linguist & Activist Noam Chomsky

As an arts major who doo­dled my way through every required sci­ence course in high school and col­lege, I am deeply grat­i­fied by film­mak­er Michel Gondry’s approach to doc­u­ment­ing the ideas of Noam Chom­sky. Hav­ing filmed about three hours worth of inter­views with the activist, philoso­pher, and father of mod­ern lin­guis­tics in a ster­ile MIT con­fer­ence room, Gondry head­ed back to his charm­ing­ly ana­log Brook­lyn digs to spend three years ani­mat­ing the con­ver­sa­tions. It’s nice to see a film­mak­er of his stature using books to jer­ry-rig his cam­era set up. At one point, he hud­dles on the floor, puz­zling over some sequen­tial draw­ings on 3‑hole punch paper. Seems like the kind of thing most peo­ple in his field would tack­le with an iPad and an assis­tant.

Gondry may have felt intel­lec­tu­al­ly dwarfed by his sub­ject, but there’s a kind of genius afoot in his work too. Describ­ing the stop-motion tech­nique he used for Is the Man Who Is Tall Hap­py?, he told Amy Good­man of Democ­ra­cy Now, “I have a light­box, and I put paper on it, and I ani­mate with Sharpies, col­or Sharpies. And I have a 16-mil­lime­ter cam­era that is set up on a tri­pod and looks down, and I take a pic­ture. I do a draw­ing and take a pic­ture.”

A pret­ty apt summation—watch him in action above—but the curios­i­ty and human­i­ty so evi­dent in such fea­tures as Eter­nal Sun­shine of the Spot­less Mind and The Sci­ence of Sleep is a mag­i­cal ingre­di­ent here, too. He attrib­ut­es bio­log­i­cal prop­er­ties to his Sharpie mark­ers, and takes a break from some of Chom­sky’s more com­plex thoughts to ask about his feel­ings when his wife passed away. He does­n’t seem to mind that he might seem a bit of a school­boy in com­par­i­son, one whose tal­ents lie beyond this par­tic­u­lar pro­fes­sor’s scope.

As Chom­sky him­self remarks in the trail­er, below, “Learn­ing comes from ask­ing why do things work like that, why not some oth­er way?”

Is the Man Who Is Tall Hap­py? is avail­able on iTunes.

H/T @kirstinbutler

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Film­mak­er Michel Gondry Presents an Ani­mat­ed Con­ver­sa­tion with Noam Chom­sky

Noam Chom­sky Schools 9/11 Truther; Explains the Sci­ence of Mak­ing Cred­i­ble Claims

Ayun Hal­l­i­day puts her life­long pen­chant for doo­dling to good use in her award-win­ning, hand­writ­ten, illus­trat­ed zine, The East Vil­lage Inky. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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