(Polish & German dialogue)
Old tensions die hard in “The Stranger Must Fly,” an accessible light comedy about a bunch of Polish thesps in the New Germany who find the welcoming West isn’t such a hayride after all. With some loss of ballast in thestodgier second half (and a snappier title), this could find a nest in subtitled TV skeds.
Central character, more an observer than mover of events, is Maks (Piotr Fronczewski), a legit director from Wroclaw who journeys to Berlin to help actor friends mount a long-banned revue. Maks is the kind of guy who’d bump into a tree in the Sahara: en route, he’s strip-searched by Polish customs and almost run over in Berlin. He blames everything on communism.
Once in Berlin, Maks finds his pals are on the bread line, state subsidies are verboten to foreigners, and a former Polish apparatchik (memorably played by vet Zbigniew Zapasiewicz) is oiling his way through town on a “cultural” freebie. Left to their own devices, the group decides to battle on.
There’s nothing hugely new here, but writer/director Wieslaw Saniewski marshals a likable, colorful cast, plenty of self-mocking Polish humor, and occasional sequences (like Maks silently witnessing a nocturnal neo-Nazi street demo) that have a dreamlike quality.
Main fault, after a pacey start, is the loss of momentum in the second half, which is at times over-talky with little plot advancement.
Ensemble playing is excellent, and technically the film is fine. German title of the co-pro is “Der Fremde muss fliegen.”