Directed by Joe May
Silent with English intertitles
While Joe May's nowhere near the household name that Lang, Murnau and Pabst are among silent movie aficionados (at least not outside of Ferdinand von Galitzien's Teutonic household, that is!), it's hard for me to imagine a much more satisfying nitrate from the era than Asphalt in terms of the sheer entertainment value on display here. From its dazzling opening scenes of a bustling Berlin shifting from daytime to nighttime right before your eyes to its claustrophobic finale depicting one character's lonesome walk into an uncertain future, this is just a joy to behold on both the visual and narrative planes. First-time viewers of the DVD should be prepared to be seduced.
It helps that Betty Amann and Gustav Fröhlich are perfectly cast as the vivacious jewel thief and no-nonsense traffic cop who seem to fall for each other after he's arrested her, but shots like this clever mirror image above do a nice job of complementing the script's tendency to keep the characters' emotional connection uncertain. Does Amann's Else Kramer really fall in love with Frölich's Officer Holk or is she just trading on her undeniable good looks to beat the rap? Could there be such a thing as love at first sight between a career cop and an unrepentant criminal? And given this temptress' Lulu-like combination of charm and sensuality, would it be fair for any man to blame Holk for putting the possibility of love with her ahead of his ethical responsibility to enforce the law? May and ace cinematographer Günther Rittau manage to entertain all these questions while entertaining you, the viewer, but I was actually hooked like Holk as soon as Amann walked onscreen. Good thing I'm not a cop with a conscience!
(noun, see Betty Amann in Asphalt)