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Asphalt (1929)

 -  Drama  -  3 May 1930 (USA)
7.6
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 793 users  
Reviews: 15 user | 12 critic

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 »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Albert Steinrück ...
Else Heller ...
...
...
...
Konsul Langen
Hans Albers ...
Ein Dieb
Arthur Duarte
...
Ein Dieb
Trude Lieske
Karl Platen
...
Frau an der Theke
Hermann Vallentin
Kurt Vespermann ...
(as Curt Vesperman)
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Storyline

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 Anonymous

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Drama

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Release Date:

3 May 1930 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Asfalto  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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User Reviews

 
ASPHALT (Joe May, 1929) ***
16 March 2006 | by (Naxxar, Malta) – See all my reviews

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 [1944]).

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 [1959] than the hard-boiled noirs it inspired), is enormously satisfying.


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