German director M.X. Oberg, who has helmed a number of shorts based on J.D. Salinger and Isaac Asimov stories, makes a decent feature debut with "Under the Milky Way," a mild, amiable comedy about the adventures of a young train attendant.

German director M.X. Oberg, who has helmed a number of shorts based on J.D. Salinger and Isaac Asimov stories, makes a decent feature debut with “Under the Milky Way,” a mild, amiable comedy about the adventures of a young train attendant. Technically, pic is more accomplished than most other first efforts, but the pleasant narrative is too slight to indicate commercial chances beyond its native land.

The protagonist (Fabian Busch) is a rather naive student who arrives in Munich just days before classes begin with two things on his mind: how to get a job and how to find a girl. The former proves relatively easy, as he lands a job as a sleeping-car attendant on the night trains traveling throughout Europe.

Pic uses this potentially romantic setting as a place where prosaic real-life happenings crisscross with more exciting fantasy-adventures. Short, ordinary-looking, but camera-friendly, Busch delivers a charming performance as the initially naive employee, who’s contrasted with his more savvy and cynical colleagues and supervisors.

Of course, working the graveyard shift provides ample opportunities to learn the “tricks” of the trade. But he still manages to maintain his compassionate humanism, as when he lets a poor family with children stay in a compartment without paying. Structured as both real and metaphorical journey, pic perks up in its Italian sequences, which amusingly contrast German and Italo lifestyles.

Scenes at the university are less convincing, though it’s here that the hero meets a charming classmate (Sophie Rois) with whom he becomes romantically involved.

For a first feature, tech credits, particularly Roger Heereman’s handsome lensing of Florence and Naples, are more than OK, contributing to a gratifying, if not terribly consequential, entertainment.

Under the Milky Way

German

Production

A Bankrupt Entertainment Group production. Produced by April Pussycat. Directed, written by M.X. Oberg.

Crew

Camera (color), Roger Heereman; editor, Mona Breuer; music, Astor Piazzolla; production design, Sister Haarmann; sound, Michael Felber. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival, Sept. 10, 1995. Running time: 84 MIN.

With

Fabian Busch, Sophie Rois, Christiane Paul, Antonio Paradiso.

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