But we can't watch the film attempting to draw comparisons to his overall career - it's not "Hannah and Her Sisters" or "Everyone Says I Love You," nor is it trying to be. Coming at the "early, funny" part of his filmography, it is better contrasted with "Sleeper" and "What's New, Pussycat?," when he was still working out his kinks but nevertheless the maker behind several ingeniously funny comedies. "Bananas" finds him slightly scattered but still nifty, it containing a sizable amount of capably performed physical comedy routines and enough one-liners to kill a man.
In it, he plays Fielding Marsh, an indelibly nervous blue collar worker who inadvertently lands himself in the position of a revolutionary after trying to win the heart of Nancy (Louise Lasser), a social activist. A product tester very much in the midst of mundane routine, he's not the type to get so involved - but, wanting to show his potential lady love that he's a man of strength, he heads over to San Marcos, where civil unrest is brewing. Almost offed by the region's government, he is saved by revolutionaries, and is, in return, trained to work alongside them with offhanded bravery. He gets in over his head, however, when he is persuaded to pose as the face of the revolution, which throws him into deep trouble after the U.S. catches a whiff of his escapades.
In terms of summary, "Bananas" sounds like a cohesive, if totally bizarre, comedy, but it is not so much a conclusive work as it is a marathon of cutting, brief satires, taking aim at everything from the media's ravenous thirst to make a story out of anything to the clichés that befall the romantic comedy genre. It's perhaps even reminiscent of "Airplane!," just without such an overwhelming abundance of visual gags.
But because of its flip-flop nature, "Bananas" never really has a specific tone, as it sometimes feels like a screwball comedy homage and sometimes feels like a rom-com spoof. When the film fails to put two and two together, though, Allen's comedy remains buoyant and pointy, laughs moving everything along more than a plot ever could. And this subversion somehow remains adequate - Allen has the pen to back up his cuckoo, and he and his performers (especially the exquisitely droll Lasser) are proficient in selling the nonsensicalities. "Bananas" isn't one of Allen's finest, but subpar Allen is still pretty darn good.
"I once stole a pornographic book that was printed in braille. I used to rub the dirty parts."
This is the first 'Woody Allen' iv'e ever seen. Yep, let that sink in. I'd never thought of his films as something I'd like, admittedly based on practically nothing. But I was recently turned onto them by a friend with "I think you'll like them". And if the rest are the same then he's right. Not that I loved 'Bananas' but I'd liked enough of what I saw that tells me I will like the rest of his long catalogue.
Despite it being some 44 years old at this point (almost double my age) 'Bananas' hasn't aged - at least in a comedic sense with absurd situations and quick snappy lines and long detailed ones too. It has everything sight gags, one liners and intricate long jokes. it's evident to me that along with 'Monty Python' 'Woody Allen' is a big influence on 'The Simpsons' - similarities that make me very happy.
The tone was set from the get go with news correspondents commentating on the soon to be dead president of San Marcos - even getting a word from the victim and how feels about being shot. Now I mention this because this was my first exposure to 'Woody Allen' - had that fallen flat then I may not have bothered with the rest. I know, I know watch it all the way through - still you know and I knew after that what I was in for.
As for the story. 'Fielding Mellish' (Woody Allen) a products tester ends up in 'San Marco and eventually becoming the president after he's dumped by his girlfriend. It's really silly stuff and judging by the descriptions of his other films may be his most disconnected in terms of reality. Not a bad thing mind, as there's plenty jokes rapid fire - and thanks to Allen's fairly pathetic look sells his character very convincingly.
I'll admit I saw some of the jokes coming - the harp in the cupboard and the escalating craziness of 'Vargas'. But another one was along to wipe that away in no time. A particular favourite of mine being him being dumped by his girlfriend - wonderfully dead pan and written.
Overall a good start to my venture into the absurd comedy world of 'Woody Allen'. 'Bananas' feels fairly fresh even 44 years onwards. Anarchic, silly and often hilarious. It's main drawback being with teh amount thrown at me there were bound to be some that miss. Sure it's not consistently funny but I see enough in it to see some more of his. A good start.