(1976)4.5Nathan SouthernSwiss director Alain Tanner remains one of the few mainstream European filmmakers capable of incorporating an extreme leftist political sentiment into a feature-length screen comedy while gingerly avoiding preachiness. With Jonah, Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000 -- undoubtedly Tanner's masterwork -- the director builds his story on a simple yet profound theme: as the Rousseau voice-over at the outset states, the film takes as its central "message" the idea that Western man has become enslaved to civilization and its institutions. The basic story thus crosscuts events from the lives of eight "radicals" in Geneva who wish to liberate themselves -- loveable oddballs who spend their weeks challenging the social norm (or "damning the man") in hilarious and occasionally bizarre ways: supermarket checker Marie (Miou-Miou) undercuts the capitalism of her grocery store by significantly undercharging customers; history professor Marco Perly (Jacques Denis) bucks standardized teaching methods by illustrating principles of time with blood sausages and discussing his desire for a ménage à trois in front of students; Matthieu Vernier (Rufus) gives up proofreading work for shoveling horse manure on a farm but later establishes a kind of alternative classroom in a greenhouse for elementary schoolers; and Max Stigny (Jean-Luc Bideau) defies an entrepreneur's attempts to swindle farm families by warning the agrarians of the scam ahead of time -- and these are only a few of the many examples. As a kind of stylistic accessory to the characters' attempts to break out of the fabric of civilization, Tanner scatters throughout the picture periodic dream sequences that represent wild formic challenges to our standard expectations of what narrative film can and cannot do: characters engage in singalongs, their sexual fantasies are visualized, Tanner cuts to wartime newsreel footage, and one character even delivers a direct aside to the camera. The eight central characters' constant, heady philosophical musings (from Diderot, Rousseau, Piaget, and others) bring the film close to Rohmer territory, but Tanner's stylistic playfulness gives the picture a giddy, effervescent quality, a wonderfully lighthearted unpredictability, and the spirit of high comedy throughout that -- per the characters' gleeful anarchism -- make us believe almost anything is possible.
Jonah, Who Will Be 25 in the Year 2000 on AllMovie