Woody Allen’s third feature film, Bananas, finds the famously neurotic comedian playing Fielding Mellish, a hapless product tester who ends up becoming the president of a small Latin American nation … all because he wanted to impress his radical girlfriend.
How exactly did he get to that position? Well – who cares? It’s hardly the point. Bananas may be about a military dictatorship, but the film itself is anarchic. The narrative is choppy and mostly serves to facilitate a bunch of jokes. There’s satire and slapstick (inspired equally by the zaniness of the Marx Brothers and silent comedies, of which The Great Dictator is a clear influence), and also jokes that seem plucked directly out of Allen’s stand-up routines. There’s one scene in particular where Mellish tries to purchase a porno mag that’s amusing while being completely out of place in the film.
The silliness and stylistic diversity of the film – it opens with two boxing commentators running a play-by-play of a political assassination, for example – would get fleshed out in his Oscar winning Annie Hall. Bananas isn’t as thoughtful as the best work in Allen’s filmography, and occasionally suffers from awkward editing, but it is incredibly funny and definitely worth watching.