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The bottom right corner of the French theatrical poster is discreetly
emblazoned with the logo of Asphalt’s production company, Universum Film AG. The rise and fall of UFA as the mecca of German cinema is closely tied to the tragic events of the early 20th century. Founded in 1921 by merging some
of Germany’s major production companies, UFA was an initiative by the Weimar government to resuscitate Germany’s staggering post-war economy and damaged international image. When Erich Pommer became head of production in 1923, he brought with him a team of visionaries responsible for such iconic films as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), not to mention access to the gigantic, state-of-the-art Babelsberg studios. Underhis supervision, UFA made another masterpiece of German Expressionism, Metropolis, in 1927. Oneof the last silent films released by UFA before the advent of the talkies, Asphalt was part of a move away from UFA’s dark, psychological earlier films towards more conventional melodramas. This was causedby the increasing influence of National Socialismin the company, spearheaded by Alfred Hugenberg, who would soon play a major role in Adolf Hitler’sascension to power. Shortly after Hugenberg’s involvement began, Pommer left the company, and Germany soon thereafter.
The spectacular poster for Asphalt’s French release is a homage to the film’s sophisticated visual style. No doubt influenced by its production designer Erich
Kettelhut, who developed the revolutionary design for Metropolis, Asphalt is fascinated by the urban landscape, particularly at night: the angled, refracted
light of street lamps, gleaming wet asphalt, and crowds gliding endlessly by. The artist has picked up on all of these characteristics, allowing them to
structure the design. Light streams from the upper left corner, illuminating a reflection of the title in the foreground. Meanwhile behind the letters, ever so subtly, a fragmented ray of light suggests figures ghosting across a wet pavement. This poster is believed to be the only surviving example.