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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fielding (Woody Allen) disguised as a South American ruler in Bananas.

3.5 Stars

Bananas is one of the most perfect film titles ever. This 1971 film—Woody Allen's fourth directorial effort—is totally out-there. It's more or less a series of one-liners, strung together by a flimsy plot and played out on the big screen. It's absurd, crazy, completely ludicrous. But it's fucking funny. If Woody Allen's style of humor irritates you at all, you are going to hate this movie. But fans of this kind of comedy will and should eat Bananas up because the laughs are virtually non-stop.

Fielding Mellish (Allen) is a total schlub trying—and failing—to succeed in 1970s New York. He's uneducated and doesn't have any real skills. But he's willing to throw himself into just about anything, which is very helpful when he meets Nancy (Louise Lasser), a young political activist. Though Fielding couldn't care less about the overthrow of a violent dictator on the small South American island of San Marcos, he almost immediately because a fierce advocate himself—until Nancy dumps him, that is. Lost, he travels to San Marcos, where he unwittingly becomes entangled in a revolution, and it'll take some real ingenuity if he's to survive and win Nancy back.

The plot of Bananas, as I said, is a total throwaway. All it's meant for is moving Fielding from point A to point B and allowing Allen to riff on anything and everything that his character comes across. There are no sacred cows in Bananas, though it's not exactly the kind of comedy that's meant to convey a story or send a message. It's simply about making the viewer laugh, and this viewer laughed—a lot.

Any further dissection of Bananas would be a waste of time. Everything in this film takes a backseat to the comedy, so to close this post out, I'm just going to list my top 5 favorite moments in Bananas. Enjoy!

5.) Fielding cross-examines himself
Hard to talk about this one without getting into some major spoilers, but toward the end of the film, Fielding finds himself on trial for crimes against the United States. Inexplicably, he opts to represent himself. And when he calls his key witness (himself) to the stand, hilarity ensues. A scene straight out of a Marx Brothers film.

4.) Fielding tries to make himself sexy
This one is quick and a purely physical gag. After Fielding's first date with Nancy, the two find themselves about the consummate the relationship when she excuses herself to use the restroom. So he tries to make himself more desirable—by spraying cologne everywhere and dumping about a pound of baby powder on himself. The best moment of the scene, however, is the super-creepy way he sprawls out on the bed. Has to been seen to be believed.

3.) Fielding almost gets mugged
This scene has absolutely nothing to do with the overall trajectory of the plot, but it represents Fielding at his most pathetic. When two street toughs (one of them Sylvester Stallone!) enter his subway car and proceed to mug an old lady. Fielding, being the gentleman that he is, sits idly and reads the paper—until the train stops and he shoves them both out the door. He's a hero! But they re-enter immediately, the doors shut, and Fielding awkwardly tries to come on to them in order to avoid a beating.

2.) Nancy can't figure out why she wants to break up with Fielding
Just going to post a transcription of this hilarious scene (courtesy of the blog Every Woody Allen Movie):

Nancy: I don’t think we should see each other anymore ... There’s something missing, and I don’t know what.
Fielding: My looks? My personality? Am I not smart enough for you? Is it to do with my height? My dental condition?
Nancy: Hmmm... no. It has nothing to do with the fact that you’re short, or that you’re not bright enough, or that your teeth are in bad shape.
Fielding: So what then? Do you have fun when your with me?
Nancy: No...
Fielding: What?
Nancy: No, I mean, we have fun, it’s not that.
Fielding: Do we not laugh?
Nancy: No, it’s not that we laugh or don’t laugh
Fielding: Certainly I laugh a lot. Sometimes I notice I’m laughing and I look at you and you’re not laughing. And I’m just laughing, laughing...
Nancy: Something’s missing, that’s all. This relationship is not going anywhere.
Fielding: Where do you want it to go?
Nancy: [pause] Where could we get it to go?
Fielding: Well [pause] I don’t know, I love you, and you love me...
Nancy: No.
Fielding: You don’t love me?
Nancy: No, but that’s not the reason why. You’re immature, Fielding.
Fielding: Immature? How am I immature?
Nancy: Well, emotionally, sexually, intellectually...
Fielding: Yeah, but what other ways?
Nancy: Well, maybe it’s my fault. Maybe I just can’t give.
Fielding: What do you mean? You just receive, I’ll give.
Nancy: I’m not ready to receive.
Fielding: Then, you give and I’ll receive.
Nancy: Well, I can’t receive
Fielding: But I’m a person that can only receive if another is giving.
Nancy: Well, I can’t give, I’m sorry.
Fielding: But if we each receive if might work.
Nancy: I’m sorry, I’m receiving and receiving and receiving, and not able to give or receive.
Fielding: Well, I’d like to give, if only you’d receive
Nancy: I can’t receive, so I don’t know how I can help you
Fielding: But if we both receive, or both give...
Nancy: I told you, I can’t receive and I can’t give. It’s just not going to work out, it’s no use, I’m sorry if I hurt you, bye.
Nancy: *walks away*
Fielding: Don’t worry about me, I’ll be okay.
Fielding: *sobs maniacally as soon as Nancy is out of sight*

1.) Howard Cosell provides color to an assassination
Of all the Woody Allen scenes I've seen, I have to say this scene, the opening scene of Bananas, might be my favorite scene I've seen. We're introduced to the island of San Marcos as a place of political unrest and brutal, power-hungry rulers, but the man introducing us is Cosell, the famous sportscaster. He calls the assassination of San Marcos' leader like a football game. It's very ironic and certainly out-there. Best thing you can do: Go seek it out for yourself. My words can't do it justice.

Have you seen Bananas? If so, what's your favorite moment? And do you like funny Woody Allen or his more serious counterpart?


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