SUNDAY

The early ’70s was the perfect time to make a film called Bananas. For a period of time there, America was going apeshit. Simian themes were everywhere: three Planet of the Apes sequels, Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp, BJ and the Bear, Philo Beddoe and his faithful, right-turning orangutan, Clyde. Sure, Woody Allen intended Bananas’ title to be an homage to the Marx Brothers and their wacky “mental illness-and-resultant-hi-jinx” movies—The Cocoanuts, Animal Crackers, and, of course, Monkey Business. But what the film really testifies to is the fact that Allen was once self-indulgent in a way that was enjoyable, when he didn’t primarily make stuffy movies about upper-class, intellectual Manhattanites and their sexual neuroses. Bananas is Allen at his crowd-pleasing, manic best—a political comedy that’s actually funny. Of course, it’s only political in the sense that Allen’s character, Fielding Mellish, joins the, er, guerrilla revolution of a fictional nation purely for the purpose of impressing his lefty paramour, Nancy (Louise Lasser). One of the film’s enduring moments involves Howard Cosell giving a dramatic play-by-play account of the happy couple’s lovemaking. The scene just wouldn’t have turned out the same today: Instead of Cosell in the bedroom with Woody, we’d have gotten stuck with Dennis Miller. Bananas screens as part of the American Film Institute’s “Here’s Woody” series at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 23, at the AFI’s Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. $8.50. (301) 495-6700. (David Dunlap Jr.)