Woody Allen’s uncredited adaptation of his own mock-diary Viva Vargas! benefits greatly from the mise-en-scène of Le Vent d’est, which yields to a study of the Cuban Revolution by way of Freedonia. The South American republic of San Marcos, chief exporter of dysentery, is introduced through an allusion to Scott-Heron’s The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, as Howard Cosell covers the ascension of the military junta live for ABC’s Wide World of Sports ("Well, you’ve heard it with your own eyes"). Allen meanwhile is in New York tangled in an upheaval of his own, being mauled by the exercise machine he’s supposed to be testing for clients. His urban mishaps include being bullied by Sylvester Stallone (following a vérité tour of a magazine stand’s porno session circa 1970) and dragging the city’s parking situation into his crucifixion dreams. "The meaning of life, death, why we’re here and everything. You like Chinese food?" The nebbish’s insurrective spirit is (sort of, not really) awakened by his politicized girlfriend (Louise Lasser), who’s only turned on by "leaders"; the trip to San Marcos is discussed by Allen’s surgeon parents mid-operation, he passes from El Dictator’s patsy to the olive-green duds of the guerrilleros with his Bob Hopeish timorousness intact ("Blood! That should be on the inside"). New York is smuggled into the jungle (the splitting of the bill at the presidential gala, the cantina taken over like a deli takeout), U.S. response to the insurgency is duly noted ("The CIA isn’t taking any chances this time, some of us are for it, some of us are against it"), the storming of the palace isn’t complete until a baby carriage is sent rolling down the steps. The lateral pan at the trial that locates one of the jurors drinking out of a fishbowl with a straw left its mark on the young National Lampoon folks, though to the Allen nerd, forever gawky in city and jungle alike, the victory lies in finally reaching your beloved, even if through a clip-on beard. With Carlos Montalbán, Nati Abascal, Jacobo Morales, and Jack Axelrod.
--- Fernando F. Croce