FERNANDO’s CORNER ~ Posted October 16th, 2016
Recently I watched “ASPHALT” (1929) (Germany) (Dir: Joe May), a film that has been discussed by friends, who have different points of view about it, and whose exchange of intelligent points of view led me to watch this film ASAP.
I have seen few German Silent films or films from the 1930s, but the ones I have seen (“Metropolis”, “The Wonderful Lies of Nina Petrovna”, “Pandora’s Box”, “Ariane”, “L’Atlantide”, which are ones I recall now) I have liked a lot and some of them I have found to be brilliant examples of film-making. I am very fond of German Expressionism as well.
“Asphalt” is an excellent example of German Expressionism. It deals with the spiralling descent of a decent man, an honest policeman, who is also the son of a policeman, into the abyss and true madness due to a praying mantis who lures him into her web of deceit and destroys him. Betty Amann is superb as the femme fatale who can’t help being what she is: honey for the bees.
I’d dare to say that “Asphalt” besides being a great example of the German Expressionistic films that were being made at the tim is also a Proto-Noir, full of amazingly staged travelling shots and with an excellent jazzy score, perfect for its mood and atmosphere.
At the beginning of the film, there are not much title cards because in hands of a good, talented director, when they are not strictly necessary for the plot’s sake, there is no need of them. I have learned that about Silent films. When they are good films, written words are not needed.
At the beginning of the film, Amman’s character, beautifully and fancifully dressed and coiffured, is shown flirting with the elderly owner of a jewelry store, and manages to steal a valuable gem. But the suspecting son of the owner discovers her game and manages to have her captured by a policeman (Gustav Fröhlich, of “Metropolis” fame). After wards, this profressional femme fatale uses every trick to try to free herself, stalking her “prey” like a tick, clinging to this honest guy, desperately using her deadlier weapon….sex, sex and more sex. These scenes are steamy indeed, but at the same time, of great finesse. Amman uses those dreamy eyes of hers, heavily made-up, with those long eye-lashes, like magnets. The policeman is all about duty before everything and basic decency, but he’s not used to dangerous, deadly females like this, thus….
A masterful late Silent. Not to be missed by film buffs.
CineMaven’s Note: See Betty Amann vamp a man away from his wife in Hitchcock’s “Rich and Strange.”
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