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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William A. Wellman
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
Poor Joe May. A pioneering director in the German film industry, he remains a comparatively little-known figure. While Lubitsch, Murnau and Lang are praised the world over, May and his films languished in obscurity. See more »
The first time that this German count watched Herr Joe May's "Asphalt" was during a mad Berliner soirée; the film was a wonderful and astonishing revelation, a great film due to its modernity and impeccable technical results. At the time the name of the director was written down in the decadent silent agenda as a director who would someday become famous and indeed Herr May has passed into the film history books with such superb films as "Das Indische Grabmal" (1921) and "Heimkehr" (1928).
From the very start of the film, even with the credits, Herr May's skill is established. He shows the fascinating big city and the main characters of the oeuvre ( a stylish crook, "desperate and in need", and a dutiful constable ) and skilfully uses crane shots around the streets ( MEIN GOTT!!... what an incredible and evocative atmosphere) emphasizing from that time on, the dramatic, sensual aspects of the film at once without the need of additional explanations.
As happens in many Weimar silent films, social aspects ripple beneath the surface of the story ( which concerns an unscrupulous woman and her questionable life and her obscure pimp with international interests all of which escape the innocent policeman hero ). May notes the different social classes that separate Dame Elsa ( Betty Amann ) and Herr Albert Hols ( Herr Gustav Fröhlich ), elegant and decadent for Dame Else and proletarian and common for Herr Albert ( the contrast between Dame Elsa's decadent life and Herr Albert's proletarian family are carefully depicted.) These backgrounds obviously influence their conduct and "principles", not to mention the way they both face life. Their different worlds t finally will collide hopelessly but beneath it all they are, in the end, just two lonely people ( and that's one of the most important aspect of the story ), who want to connect with each other in spite of their social and even sexual inner conflicts. Duty and law will collide with human need but redemption is also part of the mix after a painful struggle.
"Asphalt" is outstanding for its superb direction and modernity, not to mention the gorgeous and stylish Dame Betty Amann, the unquestionable and sensual star of the film thanks to the superb and wonderful Herr Günther Rittau cinematography.
And now, if you'll allow me, I must temporarily take my leave because this German Count must order one of his Teutonic heiresses to asphalt the Schloss pavement but in one of her most gorgeous costumes.
Herr Graf Ferdinand Von Galitzien http://ferdinandvongalitzien.blogspot.com/
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