Daily Dose of Doozy #13: Conceptual Parody: Woody Allen
Posted 27 September 2016 - 09:56 PM
2. I agree with Mast because "The Great Race" has a antiseptic feel to it. Everything is too clean. I only saw the short clip, but I think it went overboard to pay homage to the past. Tony Curtis is the hero, but I did not feel close to his portrayal of The Great Leslie. Allen, on the other hand, creates a likable character with a great many dimensions that carry him through all his early films (up through "Sleeper", "Annie Hall", and "Everything ... Sex"). He is a combination of the great slapstick geniuses like Chaplin, Keaton, Lloyd, Laurel & Hardy, and Fields. I feel as if Allen's closeness to the Sennett tradition was the result of taking Sennett's directorial style and combining the very best of the early slapstick characters into gags that are a modernization of past gags.
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Posted 27 September 2016 - 07:16 PM
Today, a simplified version (minus the track and weights) is in use in offices and schools, to help people concentrate.
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Posted 27 September 2016 - 06:38 PM
Well, as usual I'm late to the dance again and the many knowledgeable responses that precede me have pretty much covered all the bases.
The clown car equivalent of all this food and all of these workers coming out of this humble cafe qualifies this as slapstick. The absurdity of the size of the order itself is treated ritualistically, as if this could be normal. The music also does much to punctuate the situation. Without it the shot of the rebels crossing the field returning to the jungle with their order would look like it came out of a documentary. It affects how we see the gag. The earnest treatment of the food run, starting with the variation on the time honored drawing straws bit to determine who undertakes such a dangerous mission to the documentary like insertion of the pan of the rebels waiting outside for their food, establishes the parody aspect.
I do agree that this scene specifically does more to honor the tradition of slapstick exaggeration and make believe than "Mad World". While it is physically possible to demolish a gas station or destroy the basement of a hardware store, where the hell could anybody possibly come up with that much coleslaw?
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Posted 27 September 2016 - 05:17 PM
Also, hoping to see the comparison of Allen to Sennett a bit more clear as Mast describes during the film. Realizing the comparison is the conceptual artistry of this film making not the physicality.
Posted 27 September 2016 - 04:04 PM
The scene is a parody of a couple things:
First, it is a parody of a war film which often has a scene where a group goes on a raid. In this case rather than a covert attempt to raid a warehouse or steal supplies from a town, he goes to the sandwich shop.
Secondly, it is a parody of an ordinary sandwich shop scene, which we see in hundreds of movies. But in this instance he he placing an order for 1000 men. The humor of the joke is first in the specifics of the order ("One of those is on a roll") and secondly in the casual way the shop owner takes the order, as if it is nothing unusual.
Visual slapstick is in the wheelbarrows of cole slaw, and the hundreds of bagged lunches. Also, in the shot of guerrillas at gunpoint watching over a lunch delivery.
The Great Race played it's comedy within the reality of its genre. It took genre events - pie fights, races, bar brawls, etc. and did them in comical ways. In the Bananas scene, It took an idea (raiding for food) and conceptualized it as another event - ordering lunch. Had Bananas used the style of the great race, we would have stayed within the genre (war film) but made the raid comical.
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Posted 27 September 2016 - 02:28 PM
This clip in my opinion can be compared to Sennet's Keystone Kops with their physical slapstick ( bumping into each other, falling down, tripping on stuff etc ) to the ordering of tis absurd amount of food which is more conceptual slapstick.
Posted 27 September 2016 - 02:13 PM
Posted 27 September 2016 - 05:59 AM
"The Great Race" practically throws it in your face.
More brandy! Throw more brandy!!!
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Posted 27 September 2016 - 04:36 AM
This clip, from “Bananas” (1971), shows elements of both slapstick and parody:
The slapstick can be found in the absurdity of the overall situation, with Peace Corps worker Fielding Mellish (Woody Allen) joining the revolutionary movement to impress his girlfriend (Louise Lasser). The slapstick is heightened by the “coerced volunteering” of Mellish to make the food run. After being threatened with violence, he accepts the “assigning of the straws” that gives him the short one. Instead of drawing lots by chance, they are distributed according to a predetermined outcome. Verbal slapstick is used when he says as a sarcastic aside, “As long as it was fair.” The slapstick increases with outrageous exaggeration, when Mellish goes to a cafe and casually places a massive take-out order, after asking for a cup of coffee. The humor is heightened by Mellish’s nonchalant attitude and the proprietor’s deadpan response. The scene culminates with the procession of the cafe workers (exaggerated and make-believe in their absurd numbers) carrying bagged meals and wheeling barrows of cole slaw. Over this scene plays hot jazz music with kazoo accompaniment.
The parody is dual layered. The outer layer consists of a grand parody of a South American revolutionary movement struggling against an oppressive government, while the inner layer consists of a character study of those involved in 1960’s era American political activism to gain social acceptance and impress the opposite sex. The two parodies combine, when Mellish gets involved in the revolutionary movement; a movement for which he is both physically and temperamentally unsuited. Mellish concedes this, and comes to see the absurdity of this type of revolution that ultimately replaces one tyrant with another. The parody skewers the political hypocrisy that was rampant in the popular support of revolutionary movements in the 1960’s and the 1970’s.
I agree with Gerald Mast’s assertion that “Bananas” (1971) more closely captures the style and spirit of Mack Sennett than does “The Great Race” (1965). By style and spirit, I assume that we are talking about more than a simple comparison of the content. We need to look at the impetus and motivation behind the movie. “Bananas” is a visually simple and unpretentious film. The parody may be intellectually complex (even pretentious), but the slapstick is basic. Like the early Sennett films, the sets are uncomplicated, even natural. The whole thing looks like it was done “on a shoestring.” While “The Great Race” could claim to be the most expensive comedy of its time, “Bananas” might be the least expensive comedy of its time.
Besides the expense of “The Great Race,” the motivation of the film is different. “Bananas,” as parody, has a story to tell; “The Great Race,” as homage, has a nostalgic journey to take us on. Part of that journey is the look of the film, which is highly stylized and elaborate. Another part of the journey is the acting, which is also stylized and exaggerated. The slapstick is not inventive; it is imitative. Because it is attempting to recreate (and exceed) the past as a tribute to the past, the film has a self-awareness that borders on pretension. It is anything but a simple film.
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Posted 27 September 2016 - 01:22 AM
Allen complies with their non-negotiable "demands", and assumes his role as the knighted soldier who shall raid for food. He nonchalantly walks around the corner into what appears to be a small diner and proceeds to order for each and every rebel. It is then only after the food is delivered to Allen do we witness the forcing of action against the diner workers.
The slapstick aspects of this scene lie within the dialogue exchanges in between the rebels and Allen (discussing the raiding for food) and the diner worker and Allen (discussing his ordering of 1000+ sandwiches and drinks.) I must note here, the scene is also accompanied by comedic music which is implicit in its assessment of the scene itself. We are somewhat guided by the music's tone with its effectiveness to relay the likely innocuous future events occurring shortly after the melody ends.
These so called "rebels" do not seem to have a temperament of any kind of typical rebellious behavior (i.e. violence). The current situation within this scene appears to involve men camping in the woods, around a corner from some kind of modern day looking small town or village. Having not viewed the film, I cannot state this with conviction, but I see no violent ordeal occurring, as this film will likely take the opposite route entirely.
In using the curator's note and quotations within alone, I agree with Mast's sentiments regarding Allen's conceptual approach. I do believe Bananas is likely in the spirit of Sennett due to this specific quote: "Both (Sennett and Allen) 'riff' and 'goof' in a string of fast, discontinuous gags; if you don't like one, there's another right behind it. But where Sennett's goofing takes physical form, Allen's takes conceptual form."
Allen's comedic approach is a revolving door or merry go round (whichever you choose) of gag after gag. There is absolutely no denying this as it's very clear, even from the beginning of the scene. Given this is also Sennett's comedic routine, only by way of physicality instead, I can be certain Allen's comedic concepts and approach lie in the spirit of Sennett.
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Posted 26 September 2016 - 11:32 PM
Having read the many well thought responses to this question. I will try to not be a clown.
My first thought is what are we making parody of? War movies? Revolutions? Castro? Peace corps?
For me this is not entirely clear. Contrast this with Young Frankenstein which states in its opening credits that it is based on the characters from Mary Shelly. So while I don't contest the statement that this film is a parody i also cannot quickly identify the object of the parody.
So as a fan of this movie I have come to the conclusion that the parody is of taking life too seriously.
What could be more serious than a revolution and more routine than a take out order?
As for the second question I am also confused. I have gone back to the presentations on Sennett and carefully read the thoughts of Mast.
So while my admitted ignorance of this complex subject, i would have to say that Roach seems to be the more understandable comparison to me, Roach encouraged comedians to find their voice, I would say Allen found his.
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Posted 26 September 2016 - 09:18 PM
1. In what ways does this scene from Bananas operate as both slapstick comedy and as parody?
It seems to me that the scene in the clip parodies Americans’ perceptions of Latin American revolutionaries and politics. I think that’s the biggest difference between Bananas and The Great Race: Allen doesn’t just parody Latin American politics; he parodies Americans’ perceptions of Latin American politics. It’s a step removed from simple physical humor, although there’s physical humor, too. The clip has exaggeration (and plenty of it), some physical humor, make-believe situations, and some violence (not sure it contains much ritual), so it also qualifies as slapstick comedy.
2. Do you agree or disagree with Mast in his view that Bananas more closely captures Sennett’s style or spirit than The Great Race? Even if you haven’t seen either film, you can base your analysis on today’s Daily Dose versus last week’s Daily Dose from The Great Race.
Bananas seems to capture Sennett’s style more closely because it’s so outlandish, and all the characters in the scene become involved. The Café El Verde in San Marcos has everything needed to make so many sandwiches, and not just any sandwiches: sandwiches that New Yorkers could expect to find in a typical deli. The music on the soundtrack helps to set the tone rather clearly. But I don’t think the gags in the clip from Bananas are discontinuous. They might be implausible and they may spring from Allen’s imagination, but they build on one another all the same. At least I think so.
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Posted 26 September 2016 - 09:06 PM
2. I agree with Mast. Woody is more deadpan and droll than Sennett's gang but his spirit is very much evident. I thought that The Great Race was too much of a homage and was bloated and overlong. Bananas was short, fast moving and hilarious. Sleeper might have more of the manic spirit of Sennett but I think that Mack would see Woody as a kindred spirit.
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Posted 26 September 2016 - 09:03 PM
1. In what ways does this scene from Bananas operate as both slapstick comedy and as parody?
In terms of slapstick, there is the bit with the drawing sticks, because there are a lot of props used in slapstick. There is also the manner of the wheelbarrows of food. As parody, Allen pokes fun at Latin American politics, recalling the absurdity of how it is all played out in many of those countries. The slapstick isn't physical, it is more verbal, because the use of comical dialogue to explain what Allen was trying to do with the overall film. This is something that he does very well. He also captures the limited patience that is accurate with ordering fast food.
2. Do you agree or disagree with Mast in his view that Bananas more closely captures Sennett's style or spirit than The Great Race?
I have to disagree unfortunately with Mast, because there no sense of the Sennett style in the clip. The comedy is real subtle than in The Great Race. The slapstick in 'Great Race' was more physical and outrageous than in Bananas. In Bananas, the slapstick is more satirical, being that it has more dark humor. The gags are not used physically; they are performed more in a highbrow nature. There is a difference between satire and slapstick.
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Posted 26 September 2016 - 08:24 PM
The routine of placing the deli order is an old standby, from vaudeville and the early days of TV. It's hard to imagine now, but, before the days of party-trays at meetings, each person selected their own meal, which was combined into a group-order for delivery. Many an office---including the one occupied by the writers for "Your Show of Shows" (including Woody Allen)---would do this, and there would always be some chaos in compiling the list and distributing the food.
This made great fodder for comedy, and it appears in quite a few old comedy films and TV shows. "My Favourite Year" (1982) has many scenes inspired by behind-the-scenes stories of "Your Show of Shows", and it has a "lunch order in a meeting" scene. The film was executive-produced by Mel Brooks, who had been a "Your Show of Shows" writer.
Originally, the only restaurants that would do deliveries were delicatessens and Chinese. (Being cultural "outsiders" and celebrating different holidays from the Christian mainstream society, united Jewish and Chinese people---a bond that continues today, with the Jewish tradition of celebrating Christmas by going to a Chinese restaurant (the only ones open on Christmas Day).
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Posted 26 September 2016 - 08:05 PM
1. It operates in the level of exaggeration and repetition that makes it a slapstick comedy. As for Parody, it satirizes the idealism and the structure of a Marx Brothers picture with the anarchic style and attitude toward a tyrannical government or society, and it also spoofs movies about the revolution in far off countries that was taken down by an unstable and out of control person from another world.
2. I have to disagree with Mast's statement, while Bananas (1971) may come off as a more dramatic film with no humor at all whatsoever, it does not have that kinetic and fast-paced energy that the Mack Sennett comedies had in their early day making movies. The Great Race (1965), had that vim and verve that Bananas (1971) lacked in style and attitude. The Great Race was more of a tribute and homage to the Sennett and Roach films, Bananas felt more like a documentary piece that didn't have that feel of nostalgia.
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Posted 26 September 2016 - 07:47 PM
1. The jaunty music as Woody Allen and the rebels enter the diner signals that this is a comedic scene, although their action and appearance do not. The slapstick element of exaggeration is evident when Allen orders hundreds of sandwiches and coffees. The fact that the diner employee doesn’t seem fazed by this order makes us wonder if he’s in on the rebels’ plan, but it becomes evident later that he is not. Once again exaggeration provides comedy when we see the hundreds of lunches and especially the wheelbarrows full of cole slaw. In terms of parody, I’m not sure which revolutionary movies this scene is satirizing.
2. I wouldn’t agree that Bananas captures the Sennett style more than The Great Race, but Mast’s point about both Bananas and Sennett films being a collection of gags is well taken. If The Great Race’s narrative is more cohesive, its style is intentionally closer to Sennett’s. Also, Allen’s intellectual, nervous persona is quite different than the typical hyperactive, more simple-minded Sennett protagonist.
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Posted 26 September 2016 - 07:45 PM
Oh, and the thing that someone guessed was a kazoo playing was a clarinet and mostly likely played by Woody. He loves music and prefers playing jazz to doing just about anything else. The music in his movies is amazing.
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Posted 26 September 2016 - 07:43 PM
1. In what ways does this scene from Bananas operate as both slapstick comedy and as parody? If we look back at Dr. Edwards points as to what defines slapstick we see that this clip from Bananas has exaggeration (wheelbarrows full of cole slaw); shows ritualistic in that Mellish and the waiter go through a ritualistic break out of exactly how many sandwiches, how many on rye, wheat, on a roll etc.; physical in the sense that this huge number of cooks and waiters have to transport these thousands of sandwiches into the jungle and finally make believe in that what revolutionary army is going to order grilled cheese and tuna sandwiches?
The clip shows parody with all of the word play by Woody Allen. Such things as "as long it was fair" during the drawing of the short straw gag, the placing of the order for the sandwiches, and the mayo on the side and the gallons of cole slaw.
2. Do you agree or disagree with Mast in his view that Bananas more closely captures Sennett's style or spirit than The Great Race? Even if you haven't seen either film, you can base your analysis on today's Daily Dose vs. last week's Daily Dose from The Great Race. I agree with Mast that we see the Sennett style in the story structure (the Peace Corps worker helping the revolutionaries) and we see the repeated silly goofing. Whereas in "The Great Race" everything is structured to try and replicate and pay homage to the old time slapstick. It is perhaps forced and contrived. Woody Allen using his genius has the structure of a story but also all of the parodies and just miscellaneous repetitive goofing.
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