Tomorrow marks the debut of an indie animated picture that has been flying under the radar in recent weeks. The animated documentary Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?, is a DIY project by Oscar-nominated director Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) in which he illustrates a series of interviews he held with distinguished linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky. The pic will open in select theaters on Friday (Nov. 22).
The hand-drawn digital toon features Chomsky’s musings on life, creativity, art and our modern existence and offers a beautiful crash course on the well-respected thinker’s body of work. Gondry, who also used animation in his 2006 features The Science of Sleep, met the author while spending time at MIT in Boston, and decided to use abstract animation to illustrate his complex ideas.
Gondry told The Hollywood Reporter that he is a fan of Tex Avery as well as abstract work of Norman McLaren and Len Lye.
“I want to see abstract art move. Especially in the ’30s, you had animators doing innovative work and I was entranced by that. It’s basically what you see when you close your eyes. When you fall asleep it’s called a hypnagogic hallucination. I was always into that because I am very intrigued by my dreams. It’s a transition between the real world and the dreams.”
When asked about the process of his animation, the director replies, “The first part I did was the explanation of how we perceive the tree. It’s captivating. It excited me to draw a tree. You start with a trunk and you divide each branch into two and each smaller branch into two or three. It’s like a fractal. I would play the three minute segment of his answer in a loop and I would hear it again and again, the goal to allow myself to absorb it and put it out in an instinctive way. I was more illustrative and narrative in some other parts. Especially when he talks about his everyday life and memories. I would breach the two with transitions, my own ideas.”
Here is the trailer for Gondry’s movie, which is released by Sundance/IFC Films in theaters today: