Kino • 1929 • $29.95
Restoration of late-period German silent.
As the title implies, Asphalt is part of UFA Studios’ cycle of “street” films, wedding the free camera and looming shadows of German Expressionism to urban soundstages teeming with grifting, graft, and sweaty-palmed moral dilemmas of a low pay grade. Asphalt’s version unfolds over two nights: in the film’s first half, a corn-fed young cop (Metropolis’s Gustav Fröhlich) picks up a chic thief (Betty Amann, done up for some runny sub-Lulu coquetry) before eventually succumbing to her nymphomaniacal opportunism and letting her off; the following night, their dynamic’s coiled layers of lust, guilt, and confusion shudder loose with the return of her corrupt lover. Though our hero(?) eventually achieves salvation with an assist from the dialectically opposed pairing of his gentle Ma and Pa, Asphalt’s dense lighting schemes and traffic-jammed montages exemplify the genre’s murky, dizzy ethics, while May’s no-nonsense cutting keeps the suggestiveness on a tawdry edge.
This rediscovered back alley miniature deserves mention alongside the achievements of May’s more heralded contemporaries.
Born in ‘45
First Run• 1966 • $24.95
Made in 1966 this East German answer to the French and Italian New Wave was a victim of the censorship initiative at the 11th Plenum of the Communist party at which a truncheon blow was applied to an entire generation of filmmaking talent. It was finally seen in 1990, too late for director Jürgen Böttcher, who became a successful painter but never made another film.
Deceptively apolitical, the story has a sort of breezy malaise about it as a young married couple sharing a tiny apartment find themselves scraping against each other’s sensibilities. Alfred has a cerebral rebelliousness about him and wears his disaffection like a coward’s badge of courage. The way they circle each other after their separation is somewhat Godardian but without all the political sloganeering mucking up the poetic simplicity.
There’s a short interview with cinematographer Roland Gräf during which he discusses the film with a hint of nostalgia, and disappointment. There’s also a very academic but informative panel discussion that approaches the wider implications of East German film censorship (with clips, thankfully) and newsreel footage from the 60s and 70s about housing issues which puts the film in better context.
A small but important gap in cinematic history which ought to be filled at once
Queer Duck: The Movie
Paramount • 2006• $19.99
Starting as an internet phenomenon on icebox.com, Queer Duck, everyone’s favorite faggy fowl then went on to TV stardom and now has his own singing, dancing, honest-to-goodness homo musical.
While he’s happy in his life as a carefree partying duck in a committed relationship with Openly Gator, Queer Duck one day starts to wonder if he might be happier if he was straight. From this idle thought a magical musical extravaganza is born, involving an equine televangelist with a recipe to turn anyone straight (Clockwork Orange style). When it works on our quivering queer canard he’s suddenly transformed into a troglodyte frat boy who marries a way-past her prime cabaret singer. Add some hilariously scathing celebrity cameos by Rosie O’Donnell, Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson and Liza Minelli, plus a cavalcade of production numbers (‘ Let’s Play Gay Baseball’) it all moves along pretty quickly and painlessly. As testament to the show’s cult status cred, there’s also real-life celebrities lending their voice talents, including Conan O’Brien (as himself) and David Duchovny as a miniature Jesus.
Lots of entertaining behind the scenes featurettes with the creators and whacky voice actors plus some very entertaining shorts from the Showtime era.
You’ll have a gay old time.