Bananas (1971) – Woody Allen

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After Manhattan, there were 4 other Woody Allen films to view as recommendations from Great Movies – 100 Years of Film, I’ve already watched Sleeper, so I dove into the next recommendation, Bananas.

And I was pleasantly surprised!

Allen who wrote the film alongside Mickey Rose, of course stars and directs. He plays Fielding Mellish, a product tester for a large corporation, though his parents, both doctors, believe he should join the family business.

In typical Allen fashion, he meets a girl, Nancy (Louise Lasser) and promptly falls in love, joining up with all of her activism, and social awareness, which keeps him very busy. And as things tend to play out, she dumps him.

So he decides to go to the Latin American country, San Marcos, that he’s been protesting for, and for which Nancy has been writing a paper.

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Once there, things get really zany, which is the best word to describe this rather ebullient effort from Allen.  The dictator president attempts to have Allen killed by his men, dressed as rebels, so that the Americans will side with him against them, and Mellish himself ends up in the rebellion, training, arranging food (ordering to go for 900 is very funny), and establishing a new government, which under Esposito (Jacobo Morales) comes up with some new and outrageous laws.

There were tons of things I liked in this one, it never took itself too seriously, sure some of it is flat-out dumb, like complaining to a band with no instruments that they are too loud, but overall I was quite entertained. The sight gags worked really well, there was some fun dialogue, and lots of moments that I loved – the legendary Howard Cosell appearing as a sports host covering the traditional assassination of the president, the fact that the CIA is unsure which side to fight on clandestinely, so they decide to fight on both, and a truly silly scene that features a translator, despite the fact that both sides speak english.

And there’s a moment when I stopped and said HEY!!! And that, of course, was the uncredited appearance of Sylvester Stallone as a thug on the subway.

The story simply gallops along, and works surprisingly well, since most of the scenes were improvised! It looks great, with fun locations and sets, and a cast that makes the material work.

So while I haven’t turned around to become a complete convert, I am nowhere near as dubious about watching a couple more Woody Allen films.

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