- Michel Gondrydirector and animator of the new documentary, Is the Man Who is Tall Happy? His 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.
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.
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.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: So why is it that you chose to focus on his scientific work rather than on his more well-known, in some circles, anyway, political work?
MICHEL GONDRY: Well, I think he’s very exposed, he’s very present with his political work, and I think it’s probably the more—most important work because he’s trying to save—to save lives and make a change in the world. But I felt that my contribution could be more important if I would talk about his scientific work. And, as well, I always was in—I have passion for science. Even though my memory is not great, I have problems to accumulate data, but I felt it was just amazing to be able to meet somebody of this kind that is still alive.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: So what was it about his scientific work that you wanted to convey? What is it that you want audiences to understand about his work?
MICHEL GONDRY: Well, obviously, his theory on language, generative grammar, his philosophy on the perception of the world. But, to me, it was important that I could show his human side, because he’s a very friendly person, and I think he’s very honest, and he lives by his principle. And I wanted to show that to the audience, because it seems that they have a distant idea—they have an idea of a sort of distantiated man, and he’s not like that, so I wanted to convey that, as well as why I’m talking about his wife and—I mean, he’s talking about his wife, his family and so on.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to another clip of the film. This is Noam Chomsky talking about his late wife Carol and the life they shared together.
MICHEL GONDRY: But I think that you had the perfect relationship, from the outside point of view.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, nothing’s perfect.
MICHEL GONDRY: Yeah.
NOAM CHOMSKY: But it was very intimate, yeah.
MICHEL GONDRY: I think a lot of human beings spend a lot of their life trying to solve problems of relationship or find a relationship and—
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, we pretty much solved it when we were children. We were children when we got married.
MICHEL GONDRY: Yeah.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Carol was 19, I was 20.
MICHEL GONDRY: And do you think it helped you in your work?
NOAM CHOMSKY: It’s hard to say. I mean, Carol was kind of a social butterfly. You know, she was, as a teenager, you know, normal—kind of parties, dating, this and that. I was very solitary. But—and for a couple years, we more or less lived her style of life. But, you know, I’d sit in a corner at the parties. But after a while we just drifted into a very private life—you know, saw a couple friends. I mean, we weren’t hermits—like, you know, children, grandchildren, friends and so on, but mostly we preferred to be alone.
AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky talking about his late wife Carol in this remarkable film that has just been made by Michel Gondry called Is the Man Who is Tall Happy? Talk about the musical track here that you chose. And also, people all over the world are watching this or listening to this or reading it, and for those who aren’t seeing it, talk as well about how you do the work, how you animated this.
MICHEL GONDRY: Well, this song you can hear is written by Mia Doi Todd, who’s a folk musician. She has many record, and I love her music. I felt it was—it has a very sweet and unique quality that could fit with—that’s the only pop music, in a way, that is used in the film. And the technique I use is very simple, basically. 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. And generally, I switch to negative in post-production to get this sort of a glowing effect, but most of the time—I mean, all the time it’s just a 16-millimeter camera, and frame by frame as I’m drawing.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And who was responsible for the music in the rest of the film? It’s an extremely powerful musical score.
MICHEL GONDRY: It’s this English composer who’s called Howard Skempton, who does this very—it’s sort of the French school of music from the 20th century. He’s still alive, and I think he wrote some music for Debussy or one of those guy a long time ago. Yeah, he’s a great composer. I always wanted to work with him, and that was the first time I could really.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And the animation that you describe, the form, the technique, did you know you were going to employ that form the minute you were going to make a film on Chomsky, or did it come to you as you heard him speak?
MICHEL GONDRY: No, I had this idea—yeah, I had this idea before, and I showed to Noam a clip I had done. Actually, it was a clip that was part of Dave Chapelle’s Block Party. This singer that’s great called Cody Chesnutt had made a song, and I illustrated with abstract animation. And I showed that to Noam, because I felt it would work well with his way to explain the science. And abstraction allows me to still be accurate, even though I’m not sure I understand exactly what—all the nuances of Noam’s speeches, but it stays accurate. And sometime I can go to more narrative animation where it’s more on the narrative subject.
AMY GOODMAN: The famed French filmmaker, Michel Gondry, the director of Is the Man Who is Tall Happy?, about the life and work of Noam Chomsky. We’ll continue the interview and then hear Noam Chomsky respond to this highly unusual animated film about his life and work. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: “I Gave You My Home” by Mia Doi Todd, music from the film Is the Man Who is Tall Happy? This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh, as we continue our conversation with Michel Gondry, the director of this new film, an animated representation of Gondry’s conversations with the legendary political dissident and linguist, Noam Chomsky. Let’s go to another clip of the film.
MICHEL GONDRY: I wanted to know if the education you gave to your children was influenced by what you believe in language acquisition or what’s going on with the brain.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Well, the education at home, yes, so, you know, we read to the kids, encouraged the kids to read and encouraged them to follow their own interests. The three kids were quite different. My son, from a very early age, was mostly interested in science and mathematics, so by the time he was 10 years old, we were reading together popular books on relativity theory and things like that. But we just let the kids go where they wanted. They went—and encouraged them. You know, they went in different directions. It was fine with us, and, you know, tried to just encourage them to do what they wanted.
School was conventional. We wanted them to go to the public schools, and it worked reasonably well. When one child was not making out in public school, we moved her to a Quaker school, which was better.
They essentially picked their own paths. As soon as they left home, they went off to become political activists. One, my older daughter, spent a couple of months at college, couldn’t stand it, went off and joined the United Farm Workers, and ever since then has been very involved in political activity. Her younger sister went to Nicaragua in the 1980s and stayed. My son went off in a different direction.
But my children grew up in an atmosphere of extreme political tension. I don’t know how much they felt. For example, I was in and out of jail and was facing a long jail sentence, enough so that my wife went back to college after 17 years to try to get a degree, an advanced degree, because we assumed she’d have to take care of the children, she’d need a job. And the kids kind of grew up in this atmosphere, but I don’t think they felt any particular tension. My wife told me once that my probably eight—10-year-old daughter, I guess, told her when she came home from school—she asked, “What did you do in show-and-tell?” She said, “Well, I described—I told them how my father was in jail.”
AMY GOODMAN: Noam Chomsky in a clip from Michel Gondry’s Is the Man Who is Tall Happy? I asked Michel to discuss what Noam Chomsky said about the effect of his work on his children.
MICHEL GONDRY: Well, he talks about how his kids were not affected. So I was sometime—I always wonder if he tried to express something different than exactly his word, and maybe what he wanted to say is that maybe some parents are reluctant to take to the street because they feel their children will be traumatized or—if there is violence or if there is danger. And he says that his kids grew up in this tension but didn’t really felt it. Or it’s simply an observation. I don’t know. I mean, I transcribed his words. To me, of course, it’s important to mention his activism, and it’s a great part of his life and his work. And in a way, he sort of—he’s big in activism like in the late ’60s. And in a way, I—in my drawings of where I have to illustrate his word by my own drawing, the urgency to finish the project led to a sort of simplicity, and it reminded me—the work I do reminded me a bit of the ’60s activism posters. So, I felt really at home. I felt at home with this part of the story.
AMY GOODMAN: In this clip, Noam Chomsky uses the Charles River in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to explore complex notions of continuity.
NOAM CHOMSKY: Take the Charles River over there, the river going past the building. What makes it the Charles River? You can have substantial physical changes, and it would still be the Charles River. So, for example, you can reverse the direction. Still be the Charles River. You can break it up into tributaries that end up somewhere else, and it would still be the Charles River. You can change the contents, so maybe you build a manufacturing plant upstream, and the content is mostly arsenic, let’s say. Well, it’s still the Charles River.
On the other hand, there are very small changes that you can make, in which case it won’t be the Charles River at all. So, suppose you put panels along the side and you start using it to ship freight up and down. It’s not the river anymore; it’s a canal.
MICHEL GONDRY: Oh, yes.
NOAM CHOMSKY: And suppose you make some minimal physical change, almost undetectable change, which hardens it—it’s called a phase change, undetectable—but it makes it glass, basically, and you paint a line down the middle, and people start using it to commute to Boston. It’s a highway; it’s not a river. No, somehow, we—we can go on and on like this.
We understand all these things without instruction, without experience. They have to do with very complex notions of continuity of entities a physicist cannot detect, because they’re not part of the—I mean, of course, the physical world is part of them, but it’s only one part. A major part of how we identify anything in the world, no matter how elementary, is the mental conceptions that we impose on interpreting very fragmentary experience. And our experience is, indeed, very fragmentary. So, visual experience is just, you know, stimulations of the retina.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s an excerpt of the film Is the Man Who is Tall Happy? It is made by renowned French director, screenwriter, animator, producer, Michel Gondry. Yes, that’s Noam Chomsky. You spoke to Noam for hours in a series of interviews. In fact, when you started, his wife Carol was alive, and by the end she had died of brain cancer. Talk about how you selected the topics you did and how you came up with the title.
MICHEL GONDRY: Well, I talked to him a lot, but the interviews were about three hours long in all. So, basically, I took half out, and it’s edited in the order—mostly in the order that he spoke. And there is subject, like the perception of the world, on which he comes back a second time. I don’t know if he forgot he had told me already, but his examples were different, and I think it’s such a complicated subject to understand, it’s so important, that it was important—it was worth it to show it twice. But basically I showed—I followed the flow of the conversation.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And the title? How did you come up with the title?
MICHEL GONDRY: Oh, yeah. The title is a sentence that—Noam takes sentences to illustrated the generative grammar, and sometimes they are just funny. It’s about a dog, or sometime you hear about Nixon. But like the meaning doesn’t have really a great importance. That’s the construction. And it was interesting because sometimes I gave him as an example that “A man who is tall is in the room,” and he changed it without paying attention to “The man who is tall is happy.” And basically, you ask a child to formulate the question that gives his response, and the child picks the right “is” to put it in front. So I wanted to really illustrate that in a very basic and graphic manner, which is kind of complicated to do. So I was proud that I did this work, and I thought, OK, that’s a good reason to pick this sentence. But it doesn’t have much meaning in itself.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And you’ve also suggested that there is some connection between your work and the work that Chomsky does. Could you explain what you mean by that?
MICHEL GONDRY: Well, I felt, of course, it would be very, very hard for me just to follow up with him—to follow him, and I felt a little ignorant. But, on the other hand, I thought that if I do 24 drawing per second, I could add in depth and sort of balance out his depth and complication, the complexity of his purpose. So I thought animation would help to—help me to feel adequate, basically.
AMY GOODMAN: And what was Noam Chomsky’s reaction to the film?
MICHEL GONDRY: I think he really loved it. He never watches movie, and even movies about him, especially movies about himself, but this one he watched twice already. And he was very happy. And, I mean, in the film he says he never goes to see any movies, especially since his wife died, and I got him to go twice in the movie theater to watch this one. So, in fact, I did that to him.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: In the beginning of the film, you—there’s mention of Manufacturing Consent, whose director, Peter Wintonick, just recently passed away. Could you talk about the significance of watching that film for your interest in Chomsky and his work?
MICHEL GONDRY: Well, it was crucial, because basically that’s how I heard about Chomsky. I mean, coming from France, he’s very much ignored in France from some ridiculous issues that they keep bringing from the ’70s.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Such as?
MICHEL GONDRY: You know, the Faurisson revisionist book, and they have all these issues with liberty of freedom of speech in France. They don’t see it the same way that you guys see it in France. So, I was introduced to him through Manufacturing Consent. And I have to say—and maybe my generation, we watch a lot of TV, and sometimes such documentary open our mind. Like recently I watched Dirty Wars, that really opened my eyes on these problems, or Gasland really changed my thinking about those issues. And I think those documentaries are really doing an amazing job in reaching out to my type of people.
AMY GOODMAN: Michel, how does doing this film about Noam Chomsky, animating his ideas, from his private life to his politics to his linguistics, compare to making a music video for Björk or Rolling [Stones] or whoever?
MICHEL GONDRY: Well, it’s—you know, it’s funny, because I had a project with Björk. We wanted to make a feature film based on her music and science, and we couldn’t do it. And I think this is a little bit close. Working with Noam and animating science concept, it’s always something that I wanted to do. But, of course, the difference is—well, like the rock 'n' roll, you know, legend and attitude, it’s something that doesn’t really move me. And Björk is different, because she has—she has a very curious mind. But like doing a video for The Rolling Stones, it’s not—I mean, of course it was really important for me, but meeting with somebody like Noam Chomsky is more life-changing. So, that’s a huge difference. I mean, I try to work my best all the time, but—and it’s interesting, because I saw him as a father figure in a way, so I really wanted him to approve of the result, so I was thinking of that when I was working.
AMY GOODMAN: Michel, you are very well known for your music videos, also for the film for which you won an Oscar, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Talk about how you got your start.
MICHEL GONDRY: I was in art school for not very long. We started a band, a new wave punk band in the early '80s. The band was not successful, but I bought this camera, which is exactly the same one that I used for Noam's film.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Where were you?
MICHEL GONDRY: In Paris.
AMY GOODMAN: And this was Oui Oui, your band, Yes Yes?
MICHEL GONDRY: Yeah, Oui Oui, yes, yes, yes. So I started to do videos for my band, which were animated film. And little by little, I included people in my videos; it was not only drawings. And I started to do video for other bands. And like in the late—in the '90s, I moved to Los Angeles, and I tried to do a movie. That's how I met Charlie Kaufman, who wrote my two first movies, including Eternal Sunshine.
AMY GOODMAN: Your grandfather was an inventor?
MICHEL GONDRY: Yes, he invented many things, like the electronic bell, some miniature transistor on the synthesizer, what’s called the Clavioline.
AMY GOODMAN: Did Noam remind you of your grandfather?
MICHEL GONDRY: No, because my—I guess more like a father, I would say. My grandfather has—he was a bit boring. But he was—he had great stories. In fact—in fact, I just realized—
AMY GOODMAN: He obviously was a pretty creative guy.
MICHEL GONDRY: Yeah, he was creative, but I don’t know. I mean, I kind of liked my grandfather, but I was the only one in my family to enjoy his stories. It’s like my auntie. She’s a school teacher, and I made a documentary about her. And I think, from a young age, I always liked to hear stories about older people. I mean, for one thing, they are close to death, and they don’t seem to be afraid, and I am very impressed by that. And I think that if they lived 80 years or so, they must have good stories to tell.
AMY GOODMAN: Speaking of which, did Noam talk about what he was afraid of?
MICHEL GONDRY: No, because he didn’t seem to be afraid. I mean, yes, he is afraid of climate change. And when I had finished the first part of the film—between the two interviews, I showed him the result. And he said, basically, “I agree with it,” which was agreeing with himself. And—but I was still happy he said that, because it meant that I didn’t distort his words or misinterpret. But he said that it will take a few generations before people start to really accept those idea on the linguistic and philosophy. And I asked him if he was upset that he will not be around to see that. And he said, “Yes, I’m upset because nobody will be around.” And he was talking about the climate change. That was his main—one of his main concern in the world.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And this film is playing now here in select theaters. Has it also released in Europe, and will it?
MICHEL GONDRY: Not yet, no. It’s going to be in the spring in Europe. I’m curious. Like, the reaction here of the press was extremely positive. Even The New York Times, who sometimes they get some friction with Noam, were really adamant about the film. I think in France it may be different.
AMY GOODMAN: The famed French filmmaker, Michel Gondry, the director of Is the Man Who is Tall Happy? about the life and work of Noam Chomsky. When we come back, we conclude the interview and then hear Noam Chomsky himself responding to the film and talking about his life. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Nermeen Shaikh, as we continue our conversation with Michel Gondry, the director of the new film, Is the Man Who is Tall Happy?, an animated film of Gondry’s conversations with the legendary linguist, political dissident, Noam Chomsky. I asked him to talk about the range of his work and how it goes together, from Dave Chappelle to [Eternal] Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Noam Chomsky to his famous commercials for some of the biggest corporations in the world.
MICHEL GONDRY: Doesn’t go very well together. And I have to say, the process of doing advertising sort of sometime hurts my ethics. On the other hand, it allows me to choose any other project in feature film. So, when I do a feature film for Noam Chomsky, I am not earning money, and I pay for the—to start the project, so I don’t have to convince any producer. And this is because I have done some advertising and earned some money in doing so. So there is a contradiction with my ethics, because I really think advertising is—is terrible. I think, for instance, your news is—has quality because there is no advertising. That’s the main difference—I mean, not the only difference, of course, but that’s one of the main problems in advertising. It’s, of course, run by corporation. And there is this advertising that makes you think, “What am I looking at?” So I have a contradiction in doing advertising. I try to do as minimum, as little as possible. But, I have to say, they give me opportunity to make a living and then to choose projects like Block Party or Noam’s film.
AMY GOODMAN: So, interestingly, you’re really a master of manipulation. That’s why you’re so successful in advertising, why they pay you the big bucks to do it, that allows you to do your other work. So, by being the master of it, you’re an expert in it. Can you explain it to people? What makes an effective advertisement?
MICHEL GONDRY: Well, I don’t think I’m a master of manipulation. I think more illusion maybe. And the advertising are conceived by a team of creative that are not necessarily including me in the creative aspect. So, I mean, I work for them, and I represent their idea with my images and so on. But in term of manipulation, I mean, I know that when I talk about that in the film, that sometimes documentaries, who are made with live action, when you—real footage of people, you forget that—you just think that the person on the camera, on the screen, you just think that’s his voice. But through editing, that is invisible, sort of alter the reality on it. And then there is manipulation. So, sometime it’s for the best, but it could be for the worst, as well. So I’m aware of that. And that’s one of the reason why I thought animation was honest, because it’s—you’re being reminded all the time that you’re being manipulated. I mean, it’s not manipulation if you see it.
AMY GOODMAN: Maybe I should have said just, you know how to touch people. You know what affects people. Or is it more that you just express yourself?
MICHEL GONDRY: Yeah, I think I express myself, and I don’t think of touching people. I mean, yeah, of course, I hope to touch people, but I try to touch myself—sorry, it’s—can be used in the wrong way. But to—you know, to—I cannot find other expressions, because I’m going to—I was about to say to please myself, but that sounds wrong, as well. But I do images I want to see most of the time. And maybe I have a sensibility that can resemble a certain group of people, so they like my work. But I don’t give too much thought into how to get people to like me, although I’d like them to like me, of course. But I didn’t study really this sort of manipulation.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: I also want to ask about your 2004 award-winning film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Here’s an excerpt.
JOEL BARISH: [played by Jim Carrey] Tangerine.
CLEMENTINE KRUCZYNSKI: [played by Kate Winslet] Am I ugly?
JOEL BARISH: Uh-uh.
CLEMENTINE KRUCZYNSKI: When I was a kid, I thought I was. I can’t believe I’m crying already. Sometimes I think people don’t understand how lonely it is to be a kid. Like, you don’t matter. So, I’m eight, and I have these toys, these dolls. My favorite is this ugly girl doll who I call Clementine. And I keep yelling at her, “You can’t be ugly! Be pretty!” It’s weird, like if I can transform her, I would magically change, too.
JOEL BARISH: You’re pretty.
CLEMENTINE KRUCZYNSKI: Joel, don’t ever leave me.
JOEL BARISH: You’re pretty. You’re pretty. You’re pretty. Pretty. Mierzwiak, please let me keep this memory. Just this one.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was an excerpt from your 2004 film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which won an Academy Award for best original screenplay. It stars Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey. So could you talk about that scene that we just saw?
MICHEL GONDRY: Yeah. Well, first of all, that the screenplay was written by Charlie Kaufman. The statue goes to him. But, I mean, I have a statue, too, in my living room, which is great, because I co-wrote the story. But it was like one page. So, it’s—I have to put things in perspective.
What this clip was, it’s a key moment in the story where the character of—played by Jim Carrey, Joel, realize—I mean, so he’s erasing all his—it’s being erased, all his memories of Clementine, his ex-girlfriend. At this moment, in erasing them, he relives them. So, in this memory, he realized how much he loved her, and he doesn’t want any more of the procedure to happen. He wants to stop the erasing. But it was interesting, because this scene, the way it was written was about a book, and it was not as touching as it should be. And we put it together, and we realized that it didn’t have the impact we were looking for. So I asked Charlie to rewrite the scene about her youth, something that would have been really touching about her youth. And I told him, “Use 20 percent of the words you already used.” So, we come back to her lips to mimic those words, because we couldn’t reshoot it, so we just did the sound again. So we wrote the scene, like 10 minutes, using 20 percent of the word that were existing, and then we cut away to Jim Carrey when she speaks different word, and then we come back to her when she resays the same word. And this scene, who was one of the favorite scene of most of the audience, was actually completely re-edited and transformed. So, maybe that’s manipulation. Maybe here I at least tried a sort of manipulation.
AMY GOODMAN: For people who haven’t seen the film, this idea of the erasure of memory, I think of Norm Chomsky in exactly the opposite way: He is the global memory.
MICHEL GONDRY: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: He talks about what happens today and what happened in the past. He reminds us. Can you put those two together?
MICHEL GONDRY: Well, what—one of the things that impresses me the most in Noam is that, his capacity to remember all the data. And that’s why he is very hard to beat. I mean, I’m not trying to beat, to compete with him, but I can debate. He always back up his idea with very solid data. And that covers all the subject he can think of. And when he doesn’t know the data, he is not going to engage in the conversation, or he is going to admit, “I’m not aware of that.” So, of course, it’s sort of working in opposite direction. Like in Eternal Sunshine, we erase memory, which is mostly how I feel, because I’m navigating in the fog. And Noam has a very solid and detailed memory of everything. And it’s interesting because his brain work by association, so when he start an idea, he is going to lead to the next one and then to the next one. And if you don’t stop him, he can talk forever on one question, on one subject, because it’s all—and it reminds me of my auntie who was schoolteacher, and she had a million stories to say. Each time she would start a story, it would lead to the next one and the next one, and you can’t stop them. And I’m really impressed by those brains, who seem to work so well.
AMY GOODMAN: Did Noam change you?
MICHEL GONDRY: Yes, of course. It’s life-changing to meet somebody like that and spend—to spend time with him. And, I mean, the way his ethics are—I mean, the strength of his ethics and his non-compromising attitude makes me look at what I do and how I can live by my principles the way that he does. So that’s something I always think of, and I think it comes from him.
AMY GOODMAN: Michel Gondry is the director and animator of the new film, Is the Man Who is Tall Happy?