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Watching this movie today, it seems as if it had been somewhat haphazardly written. I get the feeling that Woody Allen had kept a journal in which he noted the funniest sights he'd witnessed and the cleverest one-liners he'd heard, over a period of years, and then set about mixing all of these totally unrelated funny things into one script. It's like he was saying to himself, "I think I'll throw in the bit about the guy trying to discreetly buy a sex magazine in a quiet neighborhood store and getting embarrassed, and then the snake bite bit later on. But first before the next plot turn, I think I'll put in the bit in which a guy gets out of his car and falls into an open manhole.", etc. You feel at times like you're watching a Benny Hill-type comedy show, or a TV variety show with a series of comedy skits that have nothing at all to do with each other. Somehow, Woody blended it all together into a fairly coherent story. There are also a few scenes which feature "Airplane"/"Naked Gun"-style tongue-in-cheek humor. But, this movie had been made *long* before those were even thought of. There's a message in that: This movie was ahead of its time. There's a segment of "Bananas," early on, which is just one outrageously funny bit after another after another.
I guess the movie doesn't really have a point . . . except maybe that maniacal dictators are crazy, dangerous and should be driven from power . .. or maybe that freedom is worth fighting for . . . or maybe that some causes are worth laying down your life for. Obviously, there's relevance in all of that for us, today. Or maybe the whole point of this movie could simply be that Woody Allen knows how to make people laugh.
Only Allen could have imagined this, and it's quite brilliant. Underneath the one-liners and crazy situations is a statement about the war in Vietnam and the way it was reduced to sports reporting on television. To make his point, Howard Cossell is on hand for a play by play of the character's wedding night before an audience.
Total Woody, with some hilarious moments. Highly recommended.
The storyline is characteristically simple and absurd. After a revolution breaks out in the small South American nation of San Marcos, a mediocre, unintellectual New Yorker, Fielding Mellish (Allen), travels there to impress his ex-girlfriend (Louise Lasser). After the fascist government tries to have him assassinated, poor Fielding falls in with the rebel gangs, somehow eventually becoming the President of the Latin American republic. This absurd plot line allows Allen to pile one gag on top of another, and, interestingly, the story itself never seems to lose its way or go off on any tangents. The film's satirical take on war, with the Vietnam War still raging in 1971, was very timely, and Allen also aims a few jabs at the media's handling of warfare in the ridiculous and inspired opening, ABC's Wide World of Sports arrives in San Marcos to commentate the assassination of the current President. Later, Howard Cosell returns to host the consummation of Fielding's marriage, with an enthusiastic crowd watching the awkward couple tussling beneath the covers. 'Bananas' is a type specimen of one of Woody Allen's "early, funny movies."
Good afternoon. Wide World of Sports is in the republic of San Marcos where we are going to bring you a live on the spot assassination. They're going to kill the president of this lovely Latin American country and replace him with a military dictatorship.
A strong-handed dictator, a group of (apparently marxist) rebels ban together in opposition. Woody Allen's character is living in the States and falls in love with an activist who is looking for support of the people of San Marcos. They make plans together to fly down there in a show of solidarity, but his girlfriend breaks up with him (in one of the most humorous moments of dialog recorded on film). Because he already had plans to go, he visits San Marcos where he is unwittingly joined to the rebel cause.
This is a very funny movie, especially is you are a fan of Groucho Marx - Allen's influence is quite obvious through lines such as, "I object, your honor! This trial is a travesty. It's a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham." But Woody also brings his own spin, which is pretty political - "You cannot bash in the head of an American citizen without written permission from the State Department." Most of it is one-liners or character comedy, but there are also cleverly composed dialog sequences and wacky settings. The film making is somewhat weak, and the musical score is odd, but this is about on par with early 70s movies. The story was flimsy, but apparently most of the movie was filmed improv. It is definitely worth a watch if only for the last scene alone.
In New York, the products tester Fielding Mellish (Woody Allen) meets the political activist Nancy (Louise Lasser) and they have a love affair. Fielding has an unrequited love with Nancy, who believes that he is immature and without leadership.
Fielding decides to travel to San Marcos and General Vargas plots a scheme the assassination of Fielding to be supported by the USA against the rebels led by Esposito (Jacobo Morales). However the rebels save Fielding and train him in guerrilla warfare. General Vargas flees to the United States. Esposito deranges with the power and Fielding becomes the President of San Marcos. He wears a long beard and travels to USA seeking financial support to the country and he meets Nancy again, who falls in love with him.
"Bananas" is a witty joke with the US- sponsored dictatorships in Latin America in the 60's by Woody Allen. The story has hilarious situations, like when Fielding Mellish is buying the porn magazine "Orgasm"; or with the two subway thugs (one of them the uncredited Sylvester Stallone); or having dinner with the junta; or training with the rebels. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "Bananas"
Allen truly reached his apex with this movie. It's just one crazy thing after another, namely when Mellish and the revolutionaries buy lunch. Sylvester Stallone, in an early role, plays one of the hoodlums on the subway.
It's pretty much a hit and miss movie, but when he hits (which is more often than not), it's very funny. There are plenty of hilarious one liners throughout. The music is very cheesy as well, but it fits in well with the silly humor. Obviously, this isn't like Woody's later movies, just take it for what it is -- a silly comedy -- and I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Also of note, the opening credits are very funny and rivals Monty Python and the Holy Grail for best opening credits sequence.
In the first act we get acquainted with Fielding Mellish (Allen), a neurotic loser. Mellish falls in love with Nancy (Louise Lassater), but she soon dumps him ("You are immature, Fielding","How am I immature?", "Well, emotionally, sexually, and intellectually","Yes, but in what other ways?")
In the second act, Mellish goes on a self-pity holiday to a small south-American country and gets involved in the revolution of Esposito and his rebels against dictator Vargas (Ricardo Montalban).
In the third act, Mellish replaces Esposito, gone insane after seizing power, and returns to the United States for a farcical trial.
I recently saw it again (the third time - saw it a second time, perhaps 15 or so years ago).
It now is still humorous and clever, with some of the gags and sequences "dated," and a number of the participants now gone or retired.
But seeing it anew provides an added nostalgic enjoyment which can only occur with the passage of time. And much of what is "dated" is not only because of changes in politics and other areas over the years - but also because many of the gags and techniques have been adapted by others in many films since.
It still contains the clear Woody Allen "imprint," and gives us a memorable view of his earlier work.
Woody plays Fielding Mellish, an early incarnation of the sort of character he was to play in most of his films, the perpetually worried, neurotic New Yorker (although in this case less obviously Jewish than some later Woody characters). Fielding, who works as a consumer products tester, gets involved with Latin American politics when he falls in love with Nancy, a political radical whose pet cause is supporting the guerrillas fighting to overthrow the dictatorial President Vargas of the small Republic of San Marcos. When their relationship comes to an end, he decides to visit the country for himself, only to become mixed up with the rebels. The film ends with Fielding himself becoming President of San Marcos after a revolution and then, on his return to the United States, being placed on trial as a subversive.
This film was made in 1971, near the beginning of Woody's career, and like most of his other early films such as "Take the Money and Run", "Sleeper" and "Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex ." it is a "pure" comedy, without the philosophical depth or analysis of human relationships that were to mark later films such as "Annie Hall" or "Manhattan". The film with which it perhaps has most in common is "Sleeper" from two years later, which also deals in a comic way with the theme of the little man getting mixed up in a rebellion against a dictator. Nancy has something in common with Luna, the character played by Diane Keaton in the later film.
The main difference between the two films is that "Sleeper", which is set in an imagined future two centuries hence, revolves around physical slapstick humour of the sort familiar from old silent comedies. Although there is some humour of that type in "Bananas", such as the scene where Fielding tries to demonstrate an exercise machine for busy executives, the style of humour is less physical and more satirical, particularly in the scenes set in San Marcos.
I particularly liked the scene where Vargas receives tribute from the peasants, each of whom has to present their President with his weight in dung on his birthday, so that he can fertilise his private estates- a farcical concept, but a suitably surreal and Chaplinesque comment on the politics of dictatorship (and there have been some dictators who have made their subjects do things that are almost equally absurd). Some of the satire is aimed at American foreign policy; during this period of history the State Department was prepared to support virtually any non-Communist ruler, no matter how oppressive (and even Communist ones, such as Tito, if they were anti-Russian), on the basis of "he may be a son of a bitch, but he's our son of a bitch". The trial scenes (also very funny) can be seen as a critique of the American establishment's McCarthy-style intolerance of any political dissent.
This does not, however, mean that Woody is simply concerned to attach the political Right from a left-wing position. There is plenty here to offend the political Left as well. Nancy is a shallow character, a radical-chic fun-revolutionary whose support for foreign revolutionary movements owes less to idealism than to a need to bring glamour and excitement into a humdrum existence. Fielding is initially even more shallow- his interest in the politics of San Marcos is due to nothing more elevated than his hopes of getting Nancy into bed. Woody's also satirises the Left through the figure of Esposito, the Marxist guerrilla leader (modelled on Fidel Castro) who succeeds in overthrowing Vargas only to prove as power-hungry as the man he has replaced, and even more irrational. If there is a political message here, it is that there is little point in a revolution which simply exchanges one dictator for another; Castro was originally supported by many American liberals who became disenchanted when, having overthrown the dictator Batista, he failed to hold free elections and instead turned Cuba into a one-party Communist state and a launch-pad for Khrushchev's missiles.
I felt that the film started off rather slowly, although there are some good scenes even in the early part, such as the one where a reporter gives a commentary on the overthrow and assassination of the President of San Marcos in the style of a sports commentary. It soon, however, picked up and turned into an amusing satirical comedy. It doesn't, however, have the depth of some of Woody's later films or quite the same biting verbal wit. 7/10
"Bananas" is a gag-after-gag comedy most ingenious and entertaining with really hilarious moments (Allen's training as a "guerrilla" fighter is memorable as well as the frustrated attempt to kidnap the British ambassador). Let's accept that Allen's looks is funny in itself, but the man takes the most of it.
You can be sure this is a film you'll watch with at list a permanent smile in your face. By the way, look for Sylvester Stallone in a very short but funny sequence, long before "Rocky" and "Rambo".
Allen was never known for physical humor, but he did a lot of it here. And it mostly worked.
He played his usual loser type. He never seemed to take himself seriously despite his success, and this was before all the Oscars. The puns and jokes came fast enough so that even non-fans might enjoy it.
The subject matter was interesting for the time too. And some might call it prophetic seeing as what happened in Central America in the eighties.
Sly Stallone's first non-porno role.
The best bit was when he went to the roadside café and ordered all those sandwiches because the rebel food supply was low. (1000 tuna, 998 on white, 2 on rye...) The deadpan expression of the counterman was priceless.
In Woody's immature period, he had several hit's and misses, with Sleeper being at the foot of his filmography, and the wonderful Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex at the summit. This one is more hit than miss, but to call it an actual 'hit' would be lying. Basically, Woody doesn't capitalise on the more interesting parts of the story, and instead seems all to keen to show us some slapstick humour. Although this is funny at a number of times, this film could have been a biting political satire on how America deals with other nations, or maybe even how rebels fail once they come to power. It could have even been an interesting commentary on the superficiality of love. Maybe Allen could have outdone himself and gone for all three! Basically, this is a 7/10 movie where a 10/10 one could have been. Don't get me wrong, this is definitely a good film and well worth watching, particularly for the Woody Allen fan; it's just unfortunate that it came at a time when Woody was still a clown.
So, what happens when you take a NYC loser and involve him in the political intrigue of Central America? Lots and lots of laughs. From the famous opening Cosell sequence to the porn buying mishap to being chastised by a Generalissimo for "not bringing an assortment" to a state dinner, this is great and highly original stuff. The non-original stuff is great too; Woody's Groucho, Chaplin and Hope lines and mannerisms are pure joy. Sit back, and "Suck out the Poison"!
Woody Allen's film is about a man named Fielding Mellish who is a consumer products tester. When his girlfriend dumps him, he decides to go to the fictional South American country of San Marcos for a vacation. But he gets caught in the political turmoil of that country, which is led for him to being nabbed by the FBI.
The film doesn't have any stars to speak of, maybe other than Allen himself. He's quite funny and he delivers his own dialogue with expertise. If you don't believe, look no further than the courtroom scene, where he cross-examines himself. His girlfriend was played by newcomer Louise Lasser, and she does a really good job of coming across as the bored girl of the relationship. If you look closely, you may spot a cameo of Sylvester Stallone, before his Rocky days. I also loved the commentary delivered none other than Howard Coswell, one of the commentators on ABC's Wide World of Sports.
Overall, Bananas is a sharp, witty motion picture that has the customary humor we expect from Woody Allen. This really isn't one of those romantic comedies he is good at making, but rather a satire against politics. This isn't the best film to come from him. There were moments I felt the comedy was forced, especially when it came to the relationships. But on the whole, a very enjoyable film.
My Grade: B+