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The Brilliant Mind of Noam Chomsky...Heading to a Movie Theater Near You

The man who directed "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and "Dave Chappelle's Block Party" trains his sights on legendary political dissident Noam Chomsky.
 
 
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We spend the hour with French filmmaker Michel Gondry, the director of a highly unusual new film, "Is the Man Who is Tall Happy?" It is an animated representation of Gondry’s conversations with the legendary political dissident, linguist, author and MIT professor, Noam Chomsky. The innovative documentary introduces viewers to Chomsky’s theories and ideas through a series of conversations brought to life by Gondry’s vibrant hand-drawn animations. As Chomsky speaks, Gondry’s rapidly moving pencil illustrates his words. The men discuss everything from Chomsky’s pioneering work in childhood language acquisition to his views on education, religion and astrology. Gondry’s past films include the Academy Award-winning "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," the musical documentary "Dave Chappelle’s Block Party" and "The Science of Sleep." He has also directed dozens of music videos by artists including Björk, Kanye West, Paul McCartney and The Rolling Stones.

Transcript

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AMY GOODMAN: Today we spend the hour with the French filmmaker Michel Gondry, the director of a highly unusual new film called Is the Man Who is Tall Happy? It’s an animated representation of Gondry’s conversations with the legendary political dissident, linguist, author and MIT professor, Noam Chomsky. The innovative documentary introduces viewers to Chomsky’s theories and ideas through a series of conversations brought to life by Gondry’s vibrant hand-drawn animations. As Chomsky speaks, Gondry’s rapidly moving pencil illustrates his words. The men discuss everything from Chomsky’s pioneering work in childhood language acquisition to his views on education, religion and astrology. This is the film’s trailer.

NOAM CHOMSKY: How do we identify something as a tree? You plant a tree, it grows, you cut a branch off it, and you put that branch in the ground. And suppose it grows and it becomes exactly identical to the original tree. Is that new one the same willow tree? Why not? It’s not so simple.

MICHEL GONDRY: As you can see, I felt a bit stupid here.

NOAM CHOMSKY: Why should we take it to be obvious that if I let go of a ball, it goes down and not up? Learning comes from asking, "Why do things work like that? Why not some other way?" The world is a very puzzling place. If you’re not willing to be puzzled, you just become a replica of someone else’s mind. Visual experience is just simulations of the retina, but we impose an extremely rich interpretation of it. We see the world in terms of trees and dogs and rivers and so on, but then the question is, "Well, what are those concepts?" People are just not satisfied to think, "I go from dust to dust, and there’s no meaning to my life."

MICHEL GONDRY: What makes you happy?

NOAM CHOMSKY: I don’t really think about it much.

AMY GOODMAN: That was the trailer for the new film, Is the Man Who is Tall Happy? by filmmaker Michel Gondry. His past films include the Academy Award-winning film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; the musical documentary, Dave Chappelle’s Block Party; and The Science of Sleep. Gondry has also directed dozens of music videos by artists including Björk and Kanye West, Paul McCartney, Rolling Stones. Nermeen Shaikh and I talked to Michel Gondry last week when he was in New York. I started by asking him how he decided to make a film about Noam Chomsky.

MICHEL GONDRY: When I was invited at his school, MIT, as an artist in residence several time, and I asked to meet with him, because I was meeting with all sort of teacher, in astrophysics, in neurobiology and so on, and I was really intrigued by him and fascinated from his political views to his scientific work. And so I met with him several time over maybe three, four years. I submitted to him this idea to do an animated representation of his scientific work.