Bananas (1971)

“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.”

Synopsis:
A nebbishy product tester (Woody Allen) infatuated with a political activitist (Louise Lasser) travels to the Central American country of San Marcos, where he unwittingly joins a group of rebels (led by Jacobo Morales) fighting against the regime of the new military dictator (Carlos Montalban).

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Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary argues that this “early Woody Allen film” is “somewhat dated and contains several scenes so embarrassingly stupid that it’s hard to believe Allen conceived them”; he further complains about “Marvin Hamlisch’s irritating background music for the South American sequence”. However, he concedes that there’s still “much to treasure” about the film, and names a number of its most memorable sequences (including “Allen sneakily buying Orgasm magazine and having the dealer call across the crowded shop to ask its price” and “Allen ordering takeout food for 900 guerrilla fighters”). He notes that “best of all are his meeting and break-up with Louise Lasser”, whose quirky comedic sensibility is given full opportunity to shine here; he points out that “these hilarious and perceptive scenes are quintessential Allen that could easily fit into such later, sophisticated relationship comedies as Annie Hall and Manhattan.” Ultimately, while not as polished as Allen’s later films, Bananas remains an enjoyably gonzo treat for fans interested in seeing the early development of his talents.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Louise Lasser as Nancy
  • A creative premise with many bizarrely conceived scenarios

Must See?
Yes, as additional early evidence of Allen’s comedic genius.

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One Response to “Bananas (1971)”

  1. A must – although uneven, it’s strong enough to be memorable for its best bits.

    ‘Bananas’ hangs a considerable number of gags and comic sequences on a very thin plot. Admittedly not all of it works – there are some groaners and some of the dated element of slapstick (the only thing that I think dates the film). But, generally, it can be fun to return to from time to time.

    Although there’s plenty to keep one amused, I do think the two best sequences are saved for last: when Allen’s Fielding goes to court (an extended delight as the scene is exploited for every bizarre possibility – this is my favorite part of the movie), and the honeymoon night (televised as a sports event; the use of Howard Cosell is an inspired touch).

    Lasser is a unique marvel here – and one really does want to see more of her. Whereas Allen is in broad strokes throughout, Lasser exudes a kind of subtle comic personality and her timing comes from a realistic thought process that balances Allen’s general mania. (Lasser is also memorable in Allen’s ‘What’s Up, Tiger Lily?’, ‘Take the Money and Run’, ‘Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex…’ and ‘Stardust Memories’).

    ‘Bananas’ is also noteworthy for a wide number of comic gem moments from its supporting cast, many of whom shine wonderfully, although briefly.

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