Peralta Community College District's Only Student-Run Publication
Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

Peralta Community College District's only student-run publication.

The Citizen

    Gondry explores the mind of a scholar

    Director celebrates the complex mind of Noam Chomsky

    Michel Gondry’s past successes — “The Science of Sleep,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” — have clued us into the enormous, colorful machinery of this French director’s mind. In his most recent piece, “Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy?” this comes to life through his literal handiwork: a cascade of animated doodles that amplify and echo the musings of one of our country’s greatest linguists and historians, the octogenarian professor Noam Chomsky of MIT.
    Where does language come from? How do we acquire the ability to participate in language? Why is it that when we simply redirect a river it’s called a canal, but when the entire river becomes solid, it’s still called a river? Chomsky asks us to be puzzled, to be curious, to put a question mark at the end of the world in his conversations with Gondry. He asks us not to swallow oatmeal just because we are told to, and does it surrounded by the bright and ever-shifting figures of Gondry’s making.
    Created in metacinematic style, this film opens with a self-presentation by the filmmaker, including his colorful pens, and is punctuated by his reflections on his interaction itself with Professor Chomsky: the way their communication is limited by Gondry’s foreignness, his own nervousness in approaching the interview, his interpretations and questions regarding the content of Chomsky’s responses to his questions. It is disarmingly approachable and tempting to re-watch, a genius mechanism to induce understanding.
    “Is the Man…” has been somewhat mischaracterized as a documentary; in reality it is a self-conscious, “My Dinner With Andre”-style conversation, a meeting of two very distinct talents, cultures and personalities, which at times clash. It seems at times poorly planned and uncomfortable, but like life, this sometimes results in some profound serendipities, as the pair’s misunderstandings underscore the mysteries and frustrations of language that Chomsky in his work has aimed to explore and explain. In this way it manages to not only explicate the nature of Chomsky’s life and work, but create an empathetic experience of the man himself.
    Lest this review seem gushing: it is, and with good reason: this is a great layperson’s introduction to Chomsky’s body of linguistic work, a combination of his intellectual products with his autobiography, his childhood memories with his work at MIT. Really its only flaw is that it’s unable to go too deeply into Chomsky’s mind and ferret out more detail. Alas, the film’s transmission of real information is disappointingly thin, though excusable, considering the magnitude and complexity of the man’s work over the years; you could hardly expect to cover a lifetime of theories in an hour and a half of illustrated conversation. It is barely a taste of what the man has done during his career, but for those of us used to reading his political works, it is provides another point of departure for celebrating all that is Chomsky.

    About the Contributor
    In the fall of 2019, The Laney Tower rebranded as The Citizen and launched a new website. These stories were ported over from the old Laney Tower website, but byline metadata was lost in the port. However, many of these stories credit the authors in the text of the story. Some articles may also suffer from formatting issues. Future archival efforts may fix these issues.  
    Leave a Comment
    Donate to The Citizen
    $0
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal

    Comments (0)

    All Sort: Newest

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *