| Dir: Woody Allen
“Blood? That should be on the inside!”
Before Woody went on his multi-year European exploration away from the New York that has become to personify him, he visited Puerto Rico over 30 years prior to film this scattergram comedy. It’s in every way the embodiment of Allen pre-Annie Hall; farcical sketches, sight gags, wacky satire, examples of his great wit, physical slapstick. One of Annie Hall‘s most beloved scenes is Alvy attempting to define the love that he has for the titular character; he lurves, loaves and luffs his way into our hearts. A similar moment is raised towards the end of Bananas with Nancy (a then divorced Louise Lasser). But rather than attempt to use this to provide genuine insight into the character or relationship, Woody simply makes it the punchline to a joke. A decent joke, but one with a lack of sophistication and awareness. However, this only makes the journey as a writer that Woody would take in the 6 years in between these moments all the richer.
A film about political revolutions, puppet dictators and American blowback doesn’t sound like typical fare for Allen. But he knows this films place and isn’t looking to comment on it in any profound way. The plot is razor thin, only there to provide a context to the jokes and very loosely tie them all together. Even the score is effortlessly fun. Yet his use of pertinent situations such as this – then and now, such as in Blue Jasmine – shows his aptitude at harnessing topical issues for comedic endeavours and relating his work in a universally accessible manner.
These early films were effectively Allen developing a broader vehicle for his comedic act. It tries everything to be funny and, if we are to judge comedies on their humour, this largely succeeds. Like Take the Money and Run it sharply loses momentum in the final 20 minutes, but as a collection of jokes it delivers more laughs. This self-confessed ‘cartoon’ even features my favourite gag in his filmography. Allen’s pioneering comedy is often hailed as inspiring countless future works. There are many better examples, but Bananas provides none so obvious than Woody Allen getting hit with basketballs leading to Justin Long getting hit with dodgeballs. Even though Allen probably got it from Chaplin.
Part of Woody Wednesday. Third viewing.