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 ...
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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
Late UFA silent shows style trumping content as a Tru-Blue Cop is vamped by a femme fatale thief.
UFA helmer Joe May, once spoken of in tandem with F W Murnau or Fritz Lang, ended his career struggling for gigs on B-list Hollywood fodder. But this late silent, a superb psychological meller lovingly restored with a fine new score on KINO DVD, shows him in top form. It's the old story of a naive cop corrupted by a shady lady. He bends the rules for a night of love. But when her rich lover returns, tragedy strikes, and his disgrace can only be erased through her redemption. Thrillingly designed & shot in a studio-created Berlin, May uses the camera with Murnau-like freedom & expressivity, only stumbling over the pacing of a few scenes he has trouble ending. Gustav Frohlich will always be stamped by his silly perf in Lang's METROPOLIS, but in this more naturalistic mode, he's touching & handsome. As the femme fatale, Betty Amann leaves an odd taste. She's an obvious precursor/model for Liza Minnelli's Sally Bowles in CABARET (had Bob Fosse seen this film?), but she's also a dead ringer for Tony Curtis in his drag mode in Billy Wilder's SOME LIKE IT HOT. Perhaps not as much of a stretch as it sounds since Wilder was @ UFA in '29 and even wrote May's first Hollywood pic. (05/13/07)
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