Joe May's sensual drama of life in the Berlin underworld is in many ways the perfect summation of German filmmaking in the silent era: a dazzling visual style, a psychological approach to ... See full summary »
Flashback story of an escape from the lonely, high-security Dartmoor Prison. A jealous barber's assistant is enraged by the attentions that his manicurist girlfriend pays to a customer. He ... See full summary »
Hans Adalbert Schlettow,
Antinea. the Queen of Atlantis, rules her secret kingdom hidden beneath the Sahara Desert. One day two lost explorers stumble into her kingdom, and soon realize that they haven't really ... See full summary »
Vienna in the biggest depression, directly after WW1. In a slum, Lila Leid, the wife of lawyer Leid is murdered, Egon, secretary of one of Leid's clients is arrested. He was with her, and ... See full summary »
In the Crimea, the Reds and the Whites aren't done fighting, and Jeanne discovers that the man she loves is a Bolshevik (when he kills her father). Penniless, she returns to Paris where she... See full summary »
Prologue: The murderer "Boss" Huller - after having spent ten years in prison - breaks his silence to tell the warden his story. "Boss", a former trapeze artist, and his wife own a cheap ... See full summary »
Ewald André Dupont
Lya De Putti
Thymiane is a beautiful young girl who is not having a storybook life. Her governess, Elizabeth, is thrown out of her home when she is pregnant, only to be later found drown. That same day,... See full summary »
Joe May's sensual drama of life in the Berlin underworld is in many ways the perfect summation of German filmmaking in the silent era: a dazzling visual style, a psychological approach to its characters, and the ability to take a simple and essentially melodramatic story and turn it into something more complex and inherently cinematic. Written by
I wasn't familiar with the work of director Joe May - apart from THE INVISIBLE MAN RETURNS (1940) and the Silent epic THE Indian TOMB (1921), a film I was disappointed by and which I always considered more of a Fritz Lang film anyway - although I had always been intrigued by this one and, now, thanks to Eureka and "Masters Of Cinema", I've managed to catch up with it.
From watching ASPHALT - followed, in short order, by SPIONE (1928) and TARTUFFE (1925) - I've reacquainted myself with the peerless craftsmanship of German cinema during the 1920s; indeed, May's film is technically quite irreproachable - particularly his depiction of city-life by night, but also the opening montage (echoing contemporaneous Russian cinema) which forms part of the title sequence. Apart from this, the film's slight but compelling plot later became a staple of the noir genre where a naïve man is embroiled in the sordid life of a femme fatale with tragic consequences (the most obvious example, ironically enough, being perhaps Fritz Lang's superlative THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW ).
In this regard, the film benefits greatly from the perfect casting of the two roles but especially the captivating Betty Amann, who effortlessly exudes sexuality throughout: distracting the elderly owner of the jewel shop with her considerable charms, while casually concealing one of the precious rocks in the tip of her umbrella; seducing the young, inexperienced traffic cop by excusing herself from his presence but, when he follows her into the bedroom, finds she has slipped under the sheets and is waiting for him; when he tries to leave, she literally leaps on him and, by wrapping herself around his waist, making it practically impossible for him not to give in to her. Also notable is a brief pickpocketing scene at the beginning featuring Hans Albers; the rather violent fight between the boy and the girl's elderly associate/lover, when the latter comes back to her apartment and catches them in flagrante, in which the furniture (conveniently held by visible wires) gets literally thrown around the room; the concluding act, then, marked by a number of twists (which lead to a sort of happy ending more akin to Bresson's spiritually-infused PICKPOCKET  than the hard-boiled noirs it inspired), is enormously satisfying.
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