“Bananas”: Woody Allen’s satire on Latin American populism turns fifty

"Bananas" it is a film loaded with satire and social criticism.
“Bananas” is a film loaded with satire and social criticism.

Woody Allen He is famous all over the world for his great comedies. When his filmography was just starting, the actor, screenwriter and director launched into a fierce satire on Latin American dictatorships and the United States’ ties with them. Fifty years have passed since its premiere and when viewed today, its darts are still just as effective. Many of the things he describes are still real and painful, but thanks to humor we can see them clearly.

Social criticism is at the very heart of satire. The direct mockery against the institutions, customs and follies of a society. George Bernard Shaw once said: “If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, otherwise they will kill you.” Woody Allen understood it, and being a filmmaker admired by middle-class intellectuals, he got involved with topics that were the subject of discussion and debate in those years. That is why many of them did not celebrate or laugh with the humor of Bananas (1971), a movie that was quickly put in the background.

The story follows in the footsteps of a young man from New York, Fielding Mellish (Woody Allen), who falls in love with a leftist militant girl. Nancy (Louise Lasser) is gathering signatures to support the Revolution that is fighting against the dictatorship that governs the Republic of San Marcos. This fictional nation is a made up version of Cuba. When Nancy ends her relationship with Fielding because she lacks leadership, he decides to travel to San Marcos to join the revolutionaries. When this uprising triumphs, the new leader goes mad and imposes a new dictatorship. Now Fielding will be part of a new conspiracy to overthrow him.

Just as the revolutionary turned delusional dictator is easily identifiable with Fidel Castro, his subordinate and finally enemy has a clear air to the Che Guevara. Woody Allen is ruthless, but no less realistic in portraying the madness of leftist dictatorships supported by progressivism and wealthy intellectuals. However, a satire cannot choose sides, so there is also a lot to say about the United States government, the overthrown dictator and also the media. The film is one of the funniest and most entertaining of the director.

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In the film, Woody Allen plays a young man who falls in love with a leftist militant girl.
In the film, Woody Allen plays a young man who falls in love with a left-wing militant girl.

Among the many oddities of Bananas (1971) not only are quotes from political films such as The battleship Potemkin (1925) and Modern times (1936), but a future Hollywood star also appears in a short scene. Nothing less than Sylvester Stallone, who plays a criminal who scares everyone on the subway. They say Stallone almost didn’t get the part and that he had to beg Woody Allen to get it. Years later the fans of Rocky and Rambo They tracked down this role to see the beginnings of their idol. Allen, on the other hand, would see in Bananas like his first personal film, the one in which he would have artistic control. And of course, he chose to make it a comedy, since it was still a little while before he got close to drama.

Some jokes are memorable. Woody Allen prioritizes humor more than politics, but there was no other comedy that encouraged populism like it does Bananas The new dictator’s speech is as funny as it is plausible, in light of the atrocities that occur to this day in various countries on the continent. The jokes are really funny. The Batista-style president who flees from San Marcos and on the plane complains about the price of hotels in Miami, the executions in line and with numbers, as if it were a shift and Fielding himself disguised as a revolutionary with a false beard in the style Marx Brothers on Goose soup. The comedy works perfectly.

A great dialogue occurs when the US Army goes to San Marcos in a military plane. A soldier asks: “Are we going to fight for or against the government?” And another answered: “The CIA will not take risks this time, half will fight in favor, the other half against.” Bananas It is 50 years old and judging by some jokes, it could be said that it looks like it was filmed in 2021. I don’t know if that speaks of the genius of its director or how little things have changed. Anyway, this is a wonderful movie, to really laugh at things that in real life are not funny.

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