"Could anything be more brain tingling than the man behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Science of Sleep animating his afternoon spent with the great Noam Chomsky?" This is how the Penguin Think Smarter Newsletter presents the experimental documentary by Michel Gondry, but let me tell you one thing: experiments are always interesting, but not always successful.
Is the Man who is Tall Happy? (2013), the film which screens imminently in Edinburgh Film Festival, has already -lucky us- screened in Luxembourg Film Festival end of February; it was the only one that made me leave my cosy room and make my way to the cinema which was, after all, less than fifteen-minutes walk away. I cannot say I didn't enjoy seeing it. An extremely self-conscious conversation (and, yes, I love that) between Gondry, who was commenting between bits of dialogue on his French accent which was apparently hard to get, the phrasing of a question which was not clearly understood by the other party and so on so forth, and one of the greatest thinkers of our times, Noam Chomsky.
Hand-made animation, funny and colourful intertwined with philosophical concepts on their way to their simplified version (sic). You know what? As much as I enjoyed watching this delirium of words and images, I couldn't help coming out of the cinema feeling confused to a certain extent. Why? Because it is humanly impossible to grasp 100% of what is going on on screen. You will get most of it, if you manage to stay focused -that becomes harder at times, exactly because of the "distracting" animation, but you won't have the feeling you fully "got it", except if you've studied Chomsky beforehand, I guess. Image and words are fighting one against the other for the viewers' attention, I'm afraid, and I'm not sure who wins in the end.
All in all, it was an enjoyable experiment, but I still would rather go for a book in the end, than one more of this audiovisual hybrids; at least a book gives time to the intellect to adjust with the theories it analyses; it also gives the reader the privilege of personal rhythm, and, please, if we are to read philosophy, at least give us some comfortable ambience to do so and leave out blinking fluorescent marker lines that evolve to new worlds which drag us into them.