(Der Polizeiwachtmeister und die Diamantenelse)

Germany 1929. Dir Joe May.

With Betty Amann, Gustav Fröhlich. 94 min.

A pre-talkie release, Asphalt is a stunning gem of expressionist cinema, and a prime example of German “Strassenfilm”. It’s shadowy scenes, the overt eroticism of the fatal woman and diamond thief Else, and the plot itself, in which an orderly traffic cop is caught in the web of crime and uncontrollable passion, all prefigure film noir. Yet it is in the way the story unfolds where director May shines, able to shift effortlessly from social realism to romantic melodrama and comedy. The film’s opening featuring the witty and dextrous thievery of “Diamantenelse,” as she was called in the German original.