Woody Allen, Louise Lasser, Carlos Montalban, Natividad Abascal, Jacobo Morales, David Ortiz
Woody Allen, Mickey Rose
English Digital Mono
Spanish Digital Mono
Runtime: 82 min.
Release Date: 7/5/2000
• Collectible Booklet
• Theatrical Trailer
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson
Back when Woody Allen took a more serious turn in his films during the late
Seventies, everyone bemoaned how much they missed the "funny" ones. Now
that we've experienced more than 20 years of semi-comedy, however, it's hard
to remember that seriously wacky Woody from his early days.
At least it was for me, as I learned when I watched Bananas, Allen's
1971 film that marked only his third effort as a director. I'd seen the
movie previously, but it's been a while, and I wasn't quite prepared for it.
While I can't say it was radically different than what I expected, I didn't
foresee quite how light and glib it would be. This is truly "throw
everything at the wall and see what sticks" filmmaking, and I found it
surprising to see Allen go for broke in that manner, since I'd become more
accustomed to his usual semi-cerebral musings.
Not that Bananas is a failure, because it has its moments. Perhaps
due to my reaction to the style, I found the second half of the film more
entertaining than the first. Allen goes to the well too often for some of
the gags; for example, I didn't think all that much of the "Wide World Of
Sports" bit the first time, so its reprise left me cold. However, the movie
hits a pretty good stride during its last 40 minutes or so, with all of its
best parts occurring during that span.
I didn't expect nearly as much slapstick humor as I found, and I didn't much
care for what I saw in that regard. Allen's bread and butter has always
been the quirky observation or aside, and physical humor doesn't suit his
personality. That's especially true when he wears his influences so broadly
on his sleeve; he couldn't have been more obvious if he'd supplied "Look -
I'm doing Chaplin!" subtitles, and I thought it fell flat.
That's another reason the second half worked better; it seemed to include
less of the slapstick. There's some physical stuff - most notably a
hilarious bit that revolves around the way accused criminals hide their
faces from cameras - but more of it comes from wordplay and funny
Admittedly, I'm not a big fan of Allen, although I must admit I'm developing
more of an affection for his work. Bananas has a few very good
moments and a lot of fairly weak ones. More dedicated admirers of his humor
will clearly like it more, but for myself, I found it to be a mildly amusing
but generally minor work.
The DVD Grades: Picture C+ / Audio B- / Bonus D-
Bananas appears in both its original theatrical aspect ratio of
approximately 1.85:1 and in a fullscreen edition on this double-sided,
single-layered DVD; the letterboxed image has been enhanced for 16X9
televisions. Only the widescreen side was rated for this review. Although
it generally looks decent, the picture definitely shows its age.
Sharpness usually looks very good, with most parts appearing fairly crisp
and well-defined. Some mild softness intrudes on occasion - the scene
toward the end in which a guy barges into the courtroom stands out in this
regard - but for the most part, it isn't a concern. I saw no examples of
moiré effects or jagged edges, and the artifacts from the anamorphic
downconversion on my 4X3 seemed almost completely absent.
Print flaws are an intermittent concern. Much of the film appears clean and
without problems, but light grain pops up periodically. A few scenes
display more intense issues like scratches, black grit, white speckles, and
some streaks; the dream sequence at the psychiatrist fares the worst in this
area, as it displays some very serious problems. Still, I thought the movie
seemed pretty free of blemishes for its age.
Colors were acceptably true for parts of the film but appeared generally
drab. The hues were slightly pale and bland, though they remained accurate
enough not to become displeasing. Black levels were suitably dark and deep,
but shadow detail seemed slightly heavy. The latter isn't much of an issue,
as it only reaches prominence during the night-time fight scene, but it
should have been a bit lighter. Although the film does display a number of
weaknesses, the combination of its age and the generally flat reproduction
found from film stocks of the era make it a fairly good image overall.
I also found the movie's monaural soundtrack to seem relatively satisfying.
Dialogue usually appears clear and intelligible, though it can sound a bit
bland and brittle. Effects are similarly thin but acceptably clean and
crisp. Easily the best aspect of the mix is the music, which sounds
surprisingly bright and lively; the low end doesn't seem powerful, but the
range seems broader than I'd expect, and the whole score is nicely
reproduced. Overall the soundtrack stays within fairly average boundaries
for the period, but the good quality of the music earns it a "B-".
Less positive are the DVD's supplemental features. All we get is a fairly
interesting trailer for the film plus some good production notes in the
booklet. I guess I'd better get used to that situation, since Allen
apparently doesn't like the idea of extras.
Bananas isn't one of Woody Allen's best films, but it presents some
moderately good gags, especially if you're patient enough to hang around
until the movie's second half. The DVD presents fairly average but decent
picture and sound but lacks any significant extras. Ultimately, I'd say the
DVD deserves a rental; any greater commitment depends on your affection for
Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars|| Number of Votes: 20|