Mini-Review: Bananas (1971) – An Early Woody Allen Film Just Throwing Everything at the Screen

bananas 1971
Bananas is a free state, you know apart from having a dictator. A group of revolutionaries with thick cigars and uniforms that look a lot like those of Fidel Castro and his buddies are trying to start a revolution. Meanwhile Fielding Mellish (Woody Allen) a neurotic blue collar man living in New York City gets involved with a social activist (Louise Lasser) who wants to overthrow the cruel regime of Bananas. After they break up Mellish decides that it’s a good idea to take a trip to Bananas in the midst of the country’s crazy social upheaval. What happens next is all kinds of crazy and incoherent. 

That’s probably a messy plot synopsis, but it’s not easy to summarize Bananas. It’s an oddly structured screenplay to say the least. The story is really more like a series of vignettes, which is understandable, because Woody Allen notably started his career as a cartoonist for The New YorkerBananas is one of his earlier films, where he still was sort of figuring out his style and humor. A lot of it is influenced by the Marx Brothers. There’s a lot of physical and slapstick comedy (sometimes even “nonsense”), unlike his later films which rely more on the wit of his punchy dialogue.

I watched this movie with my brother who has a similar, but not identical sense of humor to mine. Not surprisingly we often laughed at different scenes. Some of the film is genuinely laugh out loud funny, other scenes just sort of fall flat. I would recommend this only to Woody Allen fans, if they’re curious to see where he came from and how he started out his career. Even visually you can see that he experiments with a lot of different techniques, shots and framing. He’s still finding his own style and probably doing a lot of things that he “regretted” and he never tried again.

I enjoyed seeing Woody as a young lad. He’ll always be funny to me. He doesn’t even need to speak. Just look at his fake ginger beard. Ridiculous!

7 out of 10

19 comments

    • davideperretta

      Do you really want to know what I think about Godard? 😀 I don’t like his movies. I wish I did, because they’re so cool, but they’re not for me. Just feels like he’s trying too hard and it comes off as pretentious. I know I’m in the minority so I don’t really like to discuss his movies, because people might hate me for it lol

      Pierrot le Fou was great visually and on a technical level I can surely appreciate it, but that’s all I can say.. Well, Anna Karina looks good 🙂

      So what didn’t you like about Bananas?

      • Annie Oakley

        I have to admit that I had mixed reactions about Pierot , I felt that the first 30 minutes were fantastic but I didn’t like the rest of the film. I felt that it was boring and time filling, I also thought the yellow face was extremely racist. The last half was predictable. But after a few weeks away from it and reflection I enjoyed it a lot more. Regarding Bananas I just didn’t think it was very funny, I know it’s dated but it just had a lot of lowest common denominator material in it. The nudie mag store etc, I just thought it was dull and uninspired a bit like those terrible chevy chase holiday comedies in the 80’s.

      • davideperretta

        lol Chevy Chase 80s holiday comedies 😀 I have to agree, but you know I much I love Woody Allen. I guess I still like it a lot. I’m totally biased, I know.

        Well, I’m glad you liked ‘Pierrot’. I don’t remember the yellow face, but that stuff also annoys me like in silent movies where they had “black” dudes that looked like monkeys. I can’t get past that. It’s very offensive.
        I know what you mean, sometimes I think about a movie and it takes a while to realize that I actually liked it a lot more than I thought. I feel those are the best kind of films. The opposite happens as well of course..

  1. Annie Oakley

    Also I don’t think it’s a crime to not like a director, if you don’t like their stuff it’s easy to start bearing a grudge, especially if you invest time in their work and they keep disappointing you. Speaking your mind is admirable, I must admit though I do cater to the masses quite a bit on my blog. There is so much stuff I don’t like as much as I say I do. People are so passionate they just hurl abuse at you if you publish your opinion. Sometimes though I just go for it and don’t care. Perhaps you should do a column on why you hate goddards films I would read it. A lot of people hate breathless.

    • davideperretta

      Thanks. Yeah perhaps I should, but I don’t like hate mail 😀 Funny you should mention Breathless, it’s actually one of Sofia Coppola’s favorite films so I thought “Hey, I’ll love this one” and of course I didn’t haha. But yeah, I can see that he’s an inspiration to many filmmakers and he has a very unique style (he’s definitely an auteur), his films are very personal, but they’re just not for me I guess.

      Btw are you saying your blog is “commercial”? So not true! 🙂

      • Annie Oakley

        Oh, it;s not that it’s commercial but unless I’m feeling brave i tend to tone down my opinions to vanilla, because it alienates audiences. I tr to be diplomatic

      • davideperretta

        Interesting. Maybe I’ve been reading another blog then, because I always got your opinion loud and clear 🙂 But if you feel that’s not true, then you should definitely start speaking your mind from now on.

        I don’t think it alienates audiences, in fact a strong voice is always more fascinating and whether you agree or not it at least you don’t leave people cold. I think that turns off readers, if you don’t have an unique voice and just sort of try to please everyone.

      • davideperretta

        I see. You know what’s interesting? My favorite posts, the ones I am most passionate about and I feel like “damn, I made a good job on this one” are systematically my least popular 🙂 Every time, but I don’t care. I once read a quote that said something like “if I’m popular I’m worried and if people get me it’s probably only through a misunderstanding”. I don’t remember it very well, it was on the back of a soda 😀 I don’t want to get too philosophical, but yea..

      • Annie Oakley

        I know what you mean, I always feel like what I have written is meaningless if it doesn’t represent my opinion, but sometimes I just find it easier to say what I think in a less sensational manner and dial it down a bit. But you could be and most probably are right, it is important to retain your sense of self and identity. No one would read my blog if I actually wrote my real opinions, because I have issue with so many things. That is why I wanted to make my own films because I felt that there is a lot lacking in cinema that I wanted to represent.But I have no idea how to go about it.

      • davideperretta

        I can’t speak for others, but you know I’d still read your blog right? So at the very least you’d still have one reader 🙂

        I hope you get to make your own films one day, I think it would be at the very least interesting. You seem to have a clear vision and definitely a lot of great influences. What stories would you like to tell?

      • Annie Oakley

        I’m keeping my stories secret because I don’t want them stolen, (not that you would). My film ideas are a lot like theater. So more what you would see in theater rather than film but obviously on film.

      • Annie Oakley

        or maybe a better way to explain it is it would probably be somewhere between Michele gondry David lynch and Sofia Coppola. That is the first one I am working on but I am still trying to write the script. I am thinking it may be a good idea to get my computer screen fixed soon. you are right.

    • davideperretta

      Good! Would be interested to see how you like it. It’s a lot less Bergman/Fellini inspired and more Marx Brohters/Silent film humor. Annie Hall is when he started finding the style he has today so if you watch anything prior to that you should see what I mean 🙂

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