This documentary opens with director Michel Gondry explaining in a voiceover why he chose to animate his interviews with Noam Chomsky. He argues that because humans generally have a blind spot for when an edit occurs in a film, it is too easy for a documentary filmmaker to hijack the story from it’s subject without the audience knowing it. By animating the footage he wants to make it clear that this isn’t just Chomsky talking, this is Chomsky talking via Gondry’s film. By making it obvious that his thumb is on the scale, he hopes to make the film seem more honest.
It’s the worst decision he could made. The film was always going to be hard to grasp, because Gondry has a thick French accent and Chomsky speaks with a low uninflected monotone that can border on mumbling, so their conversation requires a lot of effort to get into and then even more to stay in. Furthermore, the subjects that Chomsky cares about tend to be abstract and intellectual, so it requires a lot of thinking to understand what has been said even after you’ve heard it. Throwing on top of that a cluttered visual style that’s always moving, growing and shifting is the most distracting and least helpful addition I can imagine. The drawings are so busy that they would make even a simple film hard to grasp, but here they totally wreck any hope of cohesion.
I suppose that there are people that love Chomsky’s linguistic works who might find this engaging. I personally found myself tuning out more and more frequently as it went on, until by the end I was spending most of my time watching the drawings pulse. That had it’s own charm but that didn’t leave me with a lot of take-aways, which is a shame, given the pedigree of the people involved.
Winner: The cat