Friday, August 26, 2011

Bananas (1971)

Directed by Woody Allen
Written by Woody Allen & Mickey Rose

Woody Allen is one of my favorite directors and one of the major reasons, which may seem strange, is the volume of films he has produced over the years. At this point in his career he basically comes out with a new movie every year, and what is amazing is that they all seem to be of high quality, whether they all become classics or not. Midnight in Paris may be his first great film in a while, but he has numerous other overlooked films that are really good too, like Match Point. But he has been making these films for a long time, so when Bananas was expiring from Netflix Instant, I was excited to check out one of his older, less popular films.

Fielding Mellish (Allen) is a product tester in New York, testing ridiculous products like the weight lifting executive desk. But when he meets a beautiful young activist named Nancy (Louise Lasser), he quickly falls in love despite caring less about her causes, which include petitioning the government to not back the dictator leader of a small South American country named San Marcos. But when Nancy breaks up with Fielding because "something is missing", Fielding travels to the country anyway. When he arrives he is used by the dictator to stage a murder by the rebels to get the Americans on his side, but the rebels save Fielding and he soon becomes the new dictator.

The scenario is outrageous and I didn't expect anything less from this film. It is not one of Allen's more serious works or even one of his more philosophical ones; it is merely a comedy, and as such it does that quite well. The film opens, and closes, with hilarious ABC Wide World of Sports segments complete with Howard Cossell. And in between there nothing better than riotous situations, even Sylvester Stallone makes an early career appearance. The film is irreverent and shameless in its comedy. The good thing for the movie is that most of the jokes work.

On a more fundamental level, this film should not work because it is structured very loosely and the plot is flimsy to the consequences of the film, but Woody Allen knows what he is doing here. In reality it plays out much more like an extended episode of a sit-com, but a really good sit-com. I don't know if I ever cared about the characters or their plight, but I was able to laugh at the situations they found themselves in and the numerous gags presented by Allen. Now, I'm not sure what the general reception of this film is, but I found it to be harmless. It has some really funny physical humor as well as some great exchanges of dialogue.

In some instances I found myself seeing things I could imagine being part of a Chaplin or Keaton silent comedy, though probably not up to their greatness. The break-up scene between Fielding and Nancy is great, but honestly I don't think there will be much of anything I will take from this film and actually remember, but what I do remember from the experience is that I laughed, which is all a comedy is supposed to do. Bananas is just another example of Woody Allen being Woody Allen and pumping out a solid film that is able to show he is a capable director without actually doing anything to make it a masterpiece or an essential in film history. That is why I respect his work.

1 comment:

  1. Sorry, I had planned to post this comment at your blog, not at the forum, where comments disappear so quickly. Anyway, here it is again.

    I'm not a fan of Bananas to be honest. The thing is that I really don't care much for his very early works like this one and Every thing you always wanted to know about sex. It's been many years since I watched it, but I remember it not being even remotely funny to me at that point.

    But then I've never been much into physical humor, the slapstick sort (with a few exceptions. Monty Python sometimes are quite physical and I still tend to like it, don't ask me why. I think it has to do with that they often manage to take me by surprise for some reason. Or getting absurde enough to amuse me).

    If I have a sense of humour, I'd say it's more often connected to words, self irony bordering to self torture.

    Anyway, even if Banans isn't a favourite of mine, I can join you in your general praise for Allen. I really love most of his movies, also the ones that are a bit overlooked and not so popular in top Allen lists.

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