Bananas

(USA, 1971, 81 mins, 35mm)
Director:
CAST Woody Allen, Louise Lasser, Carlos Montalban
Classification: PG
Introduced by film scholar and educator Michael van den Bos

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After being jilted by a coed political activist (Louise Lasser), incompetent products-tester Fielding Mellish (Allen) travels to the Latin American country of San Marcos, and quickly finds himself the center of a people’s revolution. Used as a pawn first by the military dictator (Carlos Montalban), then by the Castro-like rebel leader (Jacobo Morales), Mellish employs his harebrained ingenuity to survive guerilla training and to become a figurehead of this new banana republic.

"Allen’s second film as director (after Take the Money and Run (1969), and not counting What’s Up, Tiger Lily? (1966), his comic reworking of a Japanese spy film) is surely more laugh-oriented than some of his later works. But beneath the physical zaniness of Allen’s antics - reminiscent of the great comics of the silent era — is an artist wrestling with larger issues of mortality, morality and, of course, sexual frustration. The beauty of Bananas is how effortlessly it veers from slapstick to Dostoyevskian gloom to Dadaist absurdity, without ever slowing its manic pace." Bret Wood, TCM