Asphalt - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Asphalt Reviews

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½ May 2, 2016
1 of the last German silent
½ July 22, 2014
i LOVED this film! it's hands down my favourite film from the 1920s. the story in this film was so simple yet so intriguing, the characters were heart-felt and emotive, even with their scarce use of dialogue. it was amazing how much the actors could emote with just a look or an expression - it was also fun to imagine what they might be saying at points. the cinematography was so innovative and exquisite, with the shots composed beautifully. the film was overall so much fun to watch, and captured so perfectly the essence of berlin under the weimar republic without confining itself to a niche or culturally specific audience.
½ September 15, 2013
A triumph of style over story.
January 6, 2013
A wonderful German silent movie that draws inspiration from the popular key cinematic movements of the time like German expressionism and the city symphony films. Asphalt is also perhaps the earliest most complete specimen of the film noir genre. The simple plot of the cop falling in love with a femme fatale jewel thief is turned into something special by majestic photography and daring sexual undertones that are particularly effective in the sequences in which the temptress desperately tries to seduce the right doing cop. An underrated gem that needs to be discovered again.
October 2, 2012
A really enjoyable late German silent that seems to anticipate films like "M" and "Three Penny Opera" with it's street scene set design. A one hit wonder that is worth revisiting.
August 5, 2012
The greatest noir mute movie ever! (along with Der Kabinet...Caligari). I know Metropolis would probably be a more common masterpiece of the time, but the acting here is superb. They really played with my emotions there on a seemingly simple plot.
Super Reviewer
½ April 17, 2012
This movie has some of that cool German expressionist style, but it also feels like a film noir before film noir was around. The story is one we've seen a million times, the officer who falls in love with the criminal. The ending was good though. Overall it's pretty good, but I think it could have been better.
September 25, 2010
Betty Amann is beguiling as a Louise Brooks-esque thief who casts her spell on a young policeman in this Ufa classic, one of the last of the studio's mega-productions of the silent era.

Walking home from a shift, policeman Gustav Froehlich ("Metropolis") notices a ruckus at a jewelry store; inside Amann has just been busted for lifting a diamond, and faithful to his job, despite being off duty, he takes her in. But the taxi ride to the station is just enough time for the girl to weave her seductive magic on the young man, and soon enough they are back at her swank apartment, clutched in a melodramatic clinch. Naturally, this leads to bad consequences, and lives are ruined on seemingly minor lies and actions.

Director Joe May, a longtime veteran hardly mentioned in history books today, grasps onto the dying aesthetic of Expressionism, and the opening shots of Berlin, a bustling city of pavement, cars, and humanity, could be straight out of "The Man with the Movie Camera", but this is more of a romantic melodrama in which the participants get jerked around for letting their emotions dictate their actions, and in it's lush production, could stand along Sternberg, Stroheim, and Murnau for visual pop.
October 29, 2009
Avec "Asphalt", le cinéma muet en est à ses derniers balbutiements; la réalisation est assurée, la maîtrise du médium s'est perfectionnée jusqu'à donner une oeuvre splendide qui résume et conclut la poésie sombre du style expressionniste allemand. Comportant très peu d'intertitres, ce film est un exemple patent de "storytelling" épuré et efficace.

"Asphalt" est l'un des films fondateurs du genre que l'on appellera plus tard "Film Noir"; cette histoire de l'officier de loi vertueux qui se voit corrompu par les jeux de séduction d'une maligne enquiquineuse sera familière à plusieurs, à la différence que le film de Joe May adopte une posture plutôt morale et se termine de manière sinon joyeuse, du moins pas totalement dénuée d'espoir.

Si ce film n'est pas aussi connu que les grands films de Lang, Murnau, Pabst et cie, c'est sans doute parce qu'il manque de stars pour le mettre en valeur (bien que le protagoniste soit joué par le même acteur que celui de "Metropolis"). Toutefois, le jeu des acteurs est assez nuancé pour un film muet, particulièrement celui de Betty Amann qui n'est pas sans rappeler Louise Brooks ou Clara Bow. En tous cas, on aime.
August 18, 2009
Despite the entering the stuffy hangover era of the transition to sound, 1929 was something of another golden year for silent movies. With Hollywood now 100% committed to talkies the world was quickly following suit, but for some film makers letting go so suddenly of this beautiful form of art was too brutal. Thus, so much focused energy and determination was poured into these final features, desperate to thrill the vulgar audiences one more time with the sublime experience of cinema.
The late '20s were the peak of silent art, perhaps prophetically. Even in the days before the shift to sound began in 1927 masterpieces such as 'Sunrise' were defining the finesse of the motion picture. All the natural and unfathomable beauty of a passionate fire had been extinguished in favour of a cheap, flickering light bulb. Audiences were more easily seduced by the novelty of seeing and hearing people talk on screen than the more profound artistry of telling a story without words (minus the necessary intertitle or two.) Yet, after almost a century, these silent masterpieces show exactly why audiences could so easily abandon them.
It's a unique trait for cinema in the 1920s: you can take on the most lurid, sensationalist, pulpy melodrama that any amateur screenwriter knocked up in five minutes and almost completely ignore it in favour of savouring the visual impact you've created. 'Sunrise', 'Seventh Heaven', 'The Docks of New York', 'The Wind', 'The Crowd', 'Pandora's Box', 'Diary of a Country Girl', all are founded on the kind of mushy sentimentality that would make even Chaplin or Sirk throw up. 'Asphalt' is no different, and because of it, something about it just doesn't feel right. It's like watching a college drama production, or reading Victorian novels, or even listening to the average pop song; it's so over-the-top and high-flown that you can't possible take it seriously. These are the customs of a bygone age, when extreme emotions were seen as daring and romantic because people didn't act like that in real life. Only, they do, and people these days don't want to be treated to something loud purporting to be real, when we all know real life is low-key and subtle, most of the time anyway. As such, 'Asphalt' doesn't nearly capture the heart in its scenes of flailing and floundering, but it does in other places, and this is the secret of why these brilliant silent films still hold their own as towering works of art.
Joe May's luxuriant sets indeed impress, if only for the fact that he purposely built an entire city intersection only to show it onscreen for less than 15 minutes. But it's everything else that makes the film so delicious. Gunther Rittau's awe-inspiring cinematography is a masterwork of New Objectivity craftsmanship, glazing everything in a beautiful, soft, angelic light so shiny that even Frohlich's ordinary fingernails sparkle magnificently. German cinema of the late '20s was a bizarre fusion of the emo-angst of Expressionism and the purer, more aesthetic nature of New Objectivity. In 'Asphalt' it's evident in style, the way the sets are mostly geometric and how the actors remain stationary or very composed whenever possible; interestingly, the actor's never seem to bend or twist, remaining upright at all times. It perfectly mirrors the nature of fashion in the 1920s in general: artificial, stylish, made to show off naturally human beauty rather than use people to compliment the clothes.
It's very easy to fall in love with, and so is the wonderful cast. Gustav Frohlich as the towering 'Holk' takes centre stage here, and he's a joy to watch after his insufferable histrionics in Lang's 'Metropolis'. Built like a bodybuilder, he looms over all and sundry, yet his floppy humanism exposes his tiger as a frail pussycat. It's a little humiliating, to see such emasculation, but then this wasn't a decade particularly good for championing the virtues and qualities of men. As such, it falls to Betty Amann to provide the film's class to Frohlich's emotion. She is intensely beautiful, almost unbearably so, and provides an interesting contrast to Louise Brooks' similar image the same year. Whereas Brooks was typically American with her playful attitude, world-weariness and dynamite curves, Amann is much more a product of the '20s rather than a trend -setter, far removed of Brooks' sexual vulgarity. Amann's body is sleek and cylindrical, emphasising her facial features, her hair puffy and tousled coyly, her dresses tight but loose in length. This is the epitome of mainstream '20s fashion, different from Brooks' visibly personalised style. Amann is also caked in heavy-lidded make up and an almost melancholy shade of lip-stick; Brooks saves all her beauty for that hungry twinkle in her eyes. Both women, however, are enormously talented actresses, and Amann gives her bored thief a warm sweetness, diluting any of the nastiness her character suggests. When she cries and shivers fearfully in the denouement at the thought of going to jail somehow all this weary melodrama feels very real indeed. It's a testament to May's sensitivity as a director, but also to Amann and Frohlich's capabilities as actors. This powerful ability is cruelly overlooked when re-examining the dreariness of these stories. There was a time when audiences really fell in love with those silent gods and godesses of the silver screen.
Today, watch any of these movies with a pinch of salt, but watch them nonetheless, because they're every bit as culturally unique and important as any Next Big Thing that swaggers into the film world. It's a homely comfort knowing the Cinema of Shadows remains as good as any of the best movies throughout history.
May 27, 2009
Unajoya perdida del neorrealismo aleman.
Rearfirma la grandiosa consigna del cine mudo, una imagen vale por mil palabras.
August 7, 2008
One of the classics of the 20's, that is very hard to find or see. Near 80 years later and this can still be admired by anyone who has a good understanding of film making.
January 25, 2008
Simply fantastic! Every frame is beautiful!
January 22, 2008
This is one of the finest examples of German filmmaking of the 1920s. Every scene is drenched in noirish perfection. From the scenes of the asphalt laying that opens the movie onward show a director at the top of his game. I cannot recommend this enough... a fine movie from cinemas finest decade...
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