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The Unfish

An occasionally amusing but mostly silly comedy set in an Alpine village, "The Unfish" won't hook many viewers beyond Teutonic territories. Aside from squandering the talents of German star Maria Schrader, as a woman who can grant men's wishes by sleeping with them inside a stuffed whale, the script fails to elevate its fairy-tale theme to anything much beyond a fey mountain farce. Schrader plays Sophie, the niece of traveling showman Roberto (Matyas Drafi), who drops dead after the main titles and leaves behind a huge stuffed whale, mounted on a trailer. Arriving to claim her curious inheritance, Sophie soon beds Carl (Andreas Lust), who has just been left at the altar by Maria (Eva Herzig).

With:
Sophie Moor ..... Maria Schrader Maria Johler ..... Eva Herzig Carl ..... Andreas Lust Dogman ..... George Kern Mayor ..... August Schmoelzer Mr. Johler ..... Karl Merkatz Mrs. Johler ..... Bibiana Zeller Priest ..... Rudolf Wessely Policeman ..... Erwin Leder Roberto ..... Matyas Drafi

Turns out the whale has magical properties and can fulfill the dreams of any man who sleeps with Sophie inside it. As Carl had his mind on Maria at the crucial moment, the two young lovers are reunited. Alas, Sophie’s next cetacean coupling is with Maria’s former b.f., who promptly gets the bride turned into a dog.

To get Maria back in human form, Sophie starts sleeping with half the village; unfortunately, the men’s minds are more on new cars or money than Maria’s de-muttrification. Social chaos ensues when the local Jonahs learn the trick works only once per man.

To judge by the pic’s warm reception at Berlin screenings, there may be a lot going on in the dialogue that doesn’t reach the English subtitles. What’s left is an allegorical comedy sometimes reminiscent of the less-humorous Czech New Wave movies, but centered on a wild idea that should be much funnier than it is.

Schrader, who spends most of the movie on her back or sashaying around in lingerie, phones in her performance. Other actors are OK, and tech credits fine.

The Unfish

Austrian

Production: A Buena Vista Intl. (Austria) release (in Austria) of a Terra-Film production. (International sales: Terra-Film, Vienna.) Produced by Norbert Blecha. Directed by Robert Dornhelm. Screenplay, Michael Koehlmeier.

Crew: Camera (Fujicolor), Michi Riebl; editor, Klaus Hundsbichler; music, Harald Kloser; art direction, Christoph Kanter; costume design, Max Wohlkoenig; sound (Dolby Surround), Stanislav Litera, Thomas Szabolcs. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama), Feb. 19, 1997. Running time: 98 MIN.

With: Sophie Moor ..... Maria Schrader Maria Johler ..... Eva Herzig Carl ..... Andreas Lust Dogman ..... George Kern Mayor ..... August Schmoelzer Mr. Johler ..... Karl Merkatz Mrs. Johler ..... Bibiana Zeller Priest ..... Rudolf Wessely Policeman ..... Erwin Leder Roberto ..... Matyas Drafi

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