Danger: Diabolik

The problem with going for pure style with no substance is that what constitutes stylish is determined by the culture, society, and politics of the time and place something was created. Therefore, there's substance in any style. The underlying misogyny in a piece like this, where women are props for gangsters, diplomats, and criminal masterminds alike, makes them part of the style, part of the flash. The film positions the criminal as protagonist while acknowledging his impact on the world around him, comparing him tacitly to the cops and gangsters he contends with and coming away with judgment for all of them. Still, it makes no real political commentary, and that void ultimately argues for the status quo.

So there's no such thing as style without substance, not even in this beautifully shot and constructed attempt at it. It's flawed, but it's gorgeous, all angles and frames and colors, fashion and interiors. If it were just architecture and lights, there'd still be some latent unintended commentary, but it has to involve people. And in choosing those roles, it brings in the complications of class and gender, at the very least.

Still, it does the best a film can within that framework to be nothing but flash, and that flash, that style, is visually impressive. Too bad it wasn't gayer.

Sally Jane liked these reviews