Anna Manni is a policewoman trying to capture a vicious serial rapist and killer. The problem is that she suffers from Stendhals syndrome, a psychosomatic disease that gives her dizziness and hallucinations when she is exposed to the sight of paintings and artistic masterpieces. When the maniac lures her into a trap inside Florences famous Uffizi museum, her troubles are just beginning...
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As an avowed admirer of Dario Argento I sat down to watch The StendhalSyndrome more out of obligation than a sense of excitement. You see, Ihad viewed about half an hour of the film one night on a cable channeland found it to be terribly slow. Thanks to the reviews on this andother film sites I was persuaded to purchase the DVD. What was Iwatching that night on the cable anyway? This is a truly a brilliantfilm... very dark and relentlessly disturbing. A real revelation...verydifferent from other Argento films... it possesses probably thestrongest screenplay he's worked with. It's an ESSENTIAL film not onlyfor Argento lovers but for those who like challenging cinema. Not myfavorite film by the director but close to the top.
There's a rapist on the loose in this movie, we've no idea why, wenever find out why. It's not a whodunnit, it's not a procedural, justwhat on earth is it? It seems Dario simply wanted to play aroundfilming his daughter in bizarre and perilous situations, hopefully withan admixture of paintings and objets d'art. It's a perverse filmreally, it's all daughter fixation, the other characters are paperthin, the rapist/killer more a force of nature. If you wanted to lookat it as an experimental film, and focus more on what was going onbehind the camera rather than in front, maybe you could get a lot outof it (Stendhal Syndrome would make a good double bill with SergeBromberg's reconstruction of Henri-Georges Clouzot's unfinished movieInferno, which is made from basically hours of screen test fixating onRomy Schneider). I confess that I think most people would get nothingout of this movie other than an aching ass. Viewed conventionally it'sa ship full of holes, but if and once you realise you're OK withswimming down to Davy Jones' locker in conch apparel, it's quite theEpicurean experience.Some of the movie is in Rome, some Viterbo, some Florence. Darioobviously wanted to shoot museums in these three places, and socontrived the plot to do that, but without much craft at all. The plotreally becomes downright damned weird and even includes psychictransference.I just love the start of Stendhal Syndrome, the Ennio Morriconesoundtrack is quite creepy and we see Detective Anna Manni (AsiaArgento) freaking out at the Uffizi, because of the power of thepaintings, literally falling into Pieter Breughel's painting The Fallof Icarus. I love paintings so I really dig all of that, I spent a lotof time looking at Caravaggio's Medusa when I went to the Uffizi, whenI was a kid the idea of Medusa's head used to scare the hell out of me.The Morricone motif overlayed for the Caravaggio is nightmarish.There's another great scene in a grafittoed grotto which mirrors theUffizi stuff.I have to admit that getting to the end of this movie has been a littleproject of mine. For some reason I always fall asleep during Dario'smore sprawling films. There's half an hour of fat to be trimmed offthis one, and Four Flies on Grey Velvet I've totally given up on, fourtimes asleep, even though the last attempt on the summit was at middayon a Sunday.And I have to be honest with you dear user (big on admissions today) Ifound the scene when Anna presses her boyfriend up against the wall andfondles him (and more) to be really very erotic.It's a god-damned mess, but I finally got through it. If you wouldwelcome the thick-lipped kiss of oblivion for a moment, and aren'twound up too tight about production values, you could give this a go.
This movie is structured in such a way that the 'climax' appears to occurmuch earlier than one would expect. I was left wondering what in the worldArgento was going to do to keep the action going. I was eventually thrilledby the result, but I still must admit that there was a 15 minute stretch inthe middle when I just couldn't figure out at all where the movie washeaded. In this way, the structure reminded me a bit ofVertigo.Unfortunately, the one thing that is usually the best in Argento's work --the cinematography -- is obscured by an unbelievably bad DVD transfer byTroma. Compared to Anchor Bay's treatment of films like Deep Red andPhenomena, Troma's release of Stendahl Syndrome looks like a 3rd generationVHS. If you care about your DVD transfer quality, you definately need topreview this one before buying it. Movie 7/10, DVD transfer2/10.
The DVD Transfer of this movie is an absolute fiasco, and I am surprised there isn't more noise about it in the reviews. Very close to unwatchable...and I have an ugly feeling the hideously unprofessional and cheezy Troma studios is will be doing more "transfers" of Argento's work. It truly looks as if Troma "studios" ran a bad copy of a VHS tape on a television set, pointed a camcorder at the screen and then made a transfer from that tape. Disgusting. How's the movie? Who knows...you can barely see it. If Troma gets its hands on the great "Suspiria" there is no God.
This review is from: The Stendhal Syndrome (DVD) The Stendhal Syndrome is probably Dario Argento's most difficult and contradictory film. On one side it's a nasty little thriller about a serial rapist and killer with some unpleasant violence (albeit not as excessive as you might expect). And yet at the same time it does make a genuine effort to build a narrative around the psychological after-effects on one of his victims as she continually reinvents herself in an attempt to run away from the experience. Unfortunately, the fact that she's played by Asia Argento, an actress with more ferocity than subtlety doesn't help. Nor does the fact that the Stendhal Syndrome itself, a form of emotional overload and physical breakdown in the presence of great works of art somewhat similar to the Jerusalem Syndrome, isn't really explored. The bad cgi when it is doesn't help either. Still, it's much, much better than the likes of Argento's pitiful Phantom of the Opera or The Card Player, but it's not essential viewing by a long, long way.The film has always had a checkered history on DVD - for all Lloyd Kaufman's boasts of releasing the uncut version, Troma's release was less than impressive and 74 seconds shorter than the Italian version (a couple of brief dialogue scenes trimmed by Argento himself) with a underwhelming transfer that offered only the English dub. The extras were a mixed bag too - three interviews with Dario Argento (one about Phantom of the Opera), a TV spot, stills gallery, interview with fx man Sergio Stivaletti and, for no discernible reason, Ruggero Deodato on Cannibal Holocaust and far too much Troma crap. Whereas the Italian PAL 2-disc DVD offered the dubbed American version and the very slightly longer subtitled Italian version on separate discs but was overcropped to 1.78:1 rather than the original 1.66:1 widescreen, Blue Underground offers the uncut film on the first disc with optional English or Italian soundtracks in 1.66:1 (the film reverts to subtitled Italian for the restored scenes) in a superb transfer supervised by cinematographer Giuseppe Rotuno that finally shows the film in it's true colors after years of grainy and washed-out transfers. There's also a good selection of substantial interviews on the second disc. Although the making of documentary on the Italian two-disc set hasn't been included, with separate interviews with Argento, special effects supervisor Sergio Stivaletti, assistant director Luigi Cozzi and production designer Massimo Antonello Geleng, there's no cause for complaint. Best of all is the fascinating interview with psychological consultant Graziella Magherini, who originally identified the syndrome in the unrelated non-fiction book that inspired the film.
THE STENDHAL SYNDROME is probably the most linear Dario Argento movie sinceTHE BIRD WITH THE CRYSTAL PLUMAGE. The story is very Hitchcokian, in the wayit's filmed and the way the main character (played by Asia Argento) goesthrough a series of life altering events that lead to its eventualconclusion. I didn't dislike STENDHAL. In fact, compared to Dario's recentmovie, the woeful SLEEPLESS, STENDHAL SYNDROME is positively fantastic. It'srefreshing to see an Argnto movie that doesn't open with a murder. It'sabout time Dario started moving away from his formula filmmaking. But thereare several problems with this movie that prevents it from beinggreat.The first problem is that Asia is simply too young for the role. She lookslike a teenager. That doesn't mean Asia, the actress, is not up for thechallenge. She is. For the first time ever in an Argento movie(?), Asia'sAnna is actually a 3 dimensional person. The characterization ain't perfectbut characters in Argento movies are usually so flat and one dimensionalthat Anna looks, in comparison, positively fleshed out. But I wish Dario andAsia had waited a couple of years before making this movie. Asia is, attimes, totally unconvincing because of her youthful appearance.The second problem is the look of the film. It looks drab and flat. Whathappened to the director who did visually stunning films like DEEP RED orSUSPIRIA or INFERNO?!?! The camerawork is basically serviceable. In someinstances, it's actually quite good but there's almost no memorable shots orscenes in the whole thing.The third problem is the supporting characters in the movie. Thepsychologist, the police officers, Asia's brothers and father, and even therapist, are all unremarkable. The police officers all look alike and isdifficult to identify with any of them. In the psychologist case, hischaracter is borderline silly.And the fourth and biggest problem is the structure. Structurally speaking,STENDHAL SYNDROME is extremely flawed. Almost two thirds of the film isdevoted to the rapist character (the catalyst) and the last third is aboutthe "new" Anna. It shouldn't have been like this. It leaves little time forthe new "Anna," which should have been the main part of the movie. STENDHALSYNDROME looks like a character driven movie. It should have been acharacter driven movie. But Dario Argento is uncomfortable dealing withpeople and their emotions, and by concentrating so much time on theharrowing events that messes up Anna and not on Anna herself, the film feelsflat and predictable. Like it's on cruise control. The excellent music byEnnio Morricone reinforces this as it is monotonous and the same tune isused repeatedly throughout the film. In the end, it feels like a one-noteflick rather than a true 3 dimensional portrayal of Anna's decent intoinsanity.After watching STENDHAL SYNDROME, I had the impression that Dario was onlyinterested in the surprise twist ending of the "new" Anna and thateverything leading up to this was just filler. Dario's direction can bedescribed as too fatalistic. It's a shame STENDHAL SYNDROME is not betterbecause the idea of "transferring" insanity is a very interesting one.STENDHAL SYNDROME is okay late Argento, nothing more.
Dario Argento is one of the most frustrating directors working today. He'swithout a doubt an extremely important name in horror, yet when you watchhis output over the last thirty-odd years it's surprising just how manymediocre movies he has made. For me he has made two outright classics('Tenebrae' and 'Opera'), a couple of very good movies (e.g. 'Inferno'), acouple of utter turkeys ('Phenomena' a.k.a. 'Creepers'), and the rest are amixture of good and bad. Even his most famous movie 'Suspiria' is wildlyuneven. I've been interested in seeing 'The Stendhal Syndrome' for quitesome time, but it had until now proved to be elusive. Many Argento fansregard it as a real return to form so I was curious to watch it and make upmy own mind. Well, it's as I suspected, it's yet another so-so thriller fromArgento. Compared to his other two collaborations with his daughter Asiait's better than 'Trauma' and MUCH better than 'The Phantom Of The Opera'(his worst movie to date), but if I claimed this was one of his best moviesI'd be lying. Asia plays a cop on the trail of a serial rapist/killer(played by Thomas Kretschmann, best known now for Polanski's 'The Pianist').She suffers from the obscure "Stendhal Syndrome" which makes herdisorientated when she looks at works of art. She sometimes hallucinates andimagines herself IN the paintings she sees. Of course the villain uses thisto his advantage and rapes her, then taunts her with phone calls and thelike. The gimmick is an unusual one, but Argento never really goes anywherewith it. There are a couple of striking sequences where you really thinkhe's going to do something special but then he pulls back. Like most Argentomovies the script could have done with a lot more work. Asia's performanceis okay, but I must say I'm still unsure about her acting ability. She's aninteresting woman, but how much talent she really has is difficult to sayafter watching her in three movies directed by her father, Abel Ferrara's'New Rose Hotel' and her own 'Scarlet Diva'. After her character is raped byGrossi (Kretschmann) she cuts her hair and undergoes a personality change. Avisit back to her hometown and family doesn't help her piece of mind, andGrossi continues to haunt her. Anyway, being Argento the plot is filled withmany twists and turns, but I must admit to getting a bit bored before itfinished. If you're not familiar with Argento I'm not sure whether this is agood place to start. I'd suggest 'Tenebrae', or even though I have somereservations, 'Suspiria'. On the other hand few Argento fans can agree onhis output and for everyone who thinks a particular movie is a failure thereare always many others who proclaim it a classic. My opinion of 'Trauma' forone was raised (a little) after a second viewing. Maybe I will eventuallycome to appreciate 'The Stendhal Syndrome' more with time, but right now I'dfile it under "nothing special".
Dario Argento's 1996 film La Sindrome di Stendhal (aka The StendhalSyndrome) tells the story of a female police investigator Anna Manni, playedby the director's beautiful daughter Asia Argento, who is after a veryvicious and merciless serial rapist killer that has already violated manyfemales and also killed the last two. Anna, however, suffers from theStendhal's syndrome which means strong hallucinations and delusionseverytime she witnesses a piece or art, a painting, for example, and thisnaturally difficults her work a lot. As this is a film by the maestro ofItalian horror and mystery, Dario Argento, not too much can be (nor is itnecessary) told about the plot and its turns but this is the premise for TheStendhal Syndrome.The film is far from his usual Giallo mysteries as we learn very soon whothe killer is and also Anna Manni's character is far from those innocent andgood willing lead characters from his Giallos, like in the 1975 masterpieceProfondo Rosso or the 1971 film Cat O' Nine Tails. Stendhal Syndrome is very"noirish" with dirty and mean spirited minds and mentally harrowinghappenings so this is somewhat a new territory for Argento.The film's problem is that it doesn't have any noteworthy theme in it. Theend twist is a very radical one and would allow the director to tellsomething about the human nature or just why things are that way at the end.Now it just feels like another "shock ending" with no other meaning in it.Also the dark violence, both mental and physical, commited by Asia'scharacter as she does her job makes the film quite an unpleasant experiencejust because of the lack of her motivations. Her character still could havebeen much worse as now she at least develops a little from the paranoid andhateful female into a seemingly loving and healed one but still someexplanations and deeper meanings for her acts and the finale should havebeen given in order to make the film more noteworthy.There is some great dark photography and usage of shadows in the film soArgento's visual style is present here, fortunately. The darkness is veryimpressive and shows how wonderful mere shadows can be. The film's openingmust be among the very best Argento has ever done, with its silence andtotal lack of dialogue, only pretty restful images, the protagonist and themusic by Ennio Morricone, latter of which is also among the film's mostnoteworthy elements. The opening made me expect so much more from the actualfilm but at least it shows that also Argento understands the wordSilenzio.The brutality is quite harrowing as the film is rape related and the film isvery cruel in other ways, too, as mentioned earlier. Some of the typicalArgento ideas in the violent scenes can be also found, like the ratherincredible (non-violent) oesophagus scene and the "cheek bullet", the latterof which is as shocking as anything he has commited on screen. Argentodefinitely knows how to create images that stay inside the mind, but if heonly had had more to say with this film. The film is far from the incrediblevisuals and soundtracks of films like Tenebre (1982) or Suspiria (1977) andhas only very little of the magic of those masterpieces left. The film isalso very long and unnecessarily so, running nearly two hours in its uncutform, so there are not too many reasons for me to watch the piece very soonagain, unfortunately.The Stendhal Syndrome is among the worst things he has ever done and if Ihad to mention one positive thing he "expanded" in here, I'd probablymention the dark usage of shadows that lick the rotten characters and theirdeeds very effectively. One character says that "Great art has great power"right after Asia has fainted in the museum. Sadly that cannot be said aboutthe actual film. 3/10
The Stendhal Syndrome is an excellent piece. Well written and directed, alot can be said about the performance of his gorgeous daughter. The film has an interesting story line and a shock ending, a bit sluggish, but worth the wait. The film should be seen for Asia Argento alone. If you liked OPERA or TRAUMA, both films I thought were top notch, you will most certainly like this shocking piece by Italy's best suspense director.
Stendhal Syndrome is haphazard mess, struggling to work, yet ultimatelyfailing. Dario Argento presents a bleak, negative film. Aside from theoccasional inspired shot here and there, the film is outright flat, brutal,and clumsy. Overall, it lacks the Argento flourish, the stylized touch thatmade him famous. Truly, in the end, it is only the injection of outrightbrutality that makes it interesting. Without that ugly touch to prod at theviewer, the film is a dud. What Stendhal Syndrome reminded me of, in terms of a director slightlyshifting in style, was Hitchcock's Frenzy. With Frenzy, Hitchcock directedmore violent scenes, nudity, and stronger elements in general, and it is thesame with Dario and the overt cruelties present in Stendhal Syndrome. Goneare the expressionistic tones and otherworldliness that made his violenceslick and dreamlike. Instead, Stendhal is just a mean, pessimistic debacle,bookended by a flawed beginning and end, but a good, entertaining middle.
Dario Argento really knows how to bombard the viewer's senses with insane violence that seems almost sureal. The plot is good, but becomes cluttered and unbelievable towards the end. Still, a great film that should be admired for it's style, not necessarily it's storyline.
Argento used to be one of Italy's best film makers, unfortunately with "Trauma", this and "Phantom of the Opera" it looks as if the old boy has completely lost it. This film holds none of the magic and mystery of his other films and is competely lacking in style. Asia Argento is very pretty but totally unbelievable in the part of the policewoman. She is years to young and whoever decided on her for the part must have been blind. There are moments in this film where I'm sure I must of blushed in embarassment for Argento the acting is so incredibly BAD. Unfortunately the film is completely lacking in style as well and Argento seems to have become interested in CGI and treats us to some of the most pointless CGI visuals I have ever seen. My advice is give this film a wide berth... but then it's all a matter of taste and Argento fans will have to see it... Just make sure you rent before buying
This review is from: The Stendhal Syndrome (2-Disc Special Edition) (DVD) For years I had wondered why critics had condemned the quality of the previous release(s) of this film. Watching this gorgeous new transfer and hearing it in dts, then comparing it to the previous release, I understood completely. This is one of Dario Argento's most divisive films, and I'll admit that for a long time, I didn't fully understand or appreciate it. The supplemental disc in this release, which includes an interview with the psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who wrote the book upon which the film is based and who consulted on the film, made everything perfectly clear for me. Her explanations of the syndrome and its effects helped me to understand what Anna does and why. It really was like watching a new film for me. Of course she'd do that, I thought. I was also pleased to see the film restored to its original running time. Anyone whose opinion of the film was questionable before should give it another try through this excellent Blue Underground release.
Dario Argent is one of the finest directors of horror worldwide and hasmany fine films under his belt. Unfortunately The Stendhal Syndrome isnot one of them. The 90's are seen as a weak era for Argento,personally I have only seen this and The Phantom of the Opera from thistime, and I actually enjoyed the widely lambasted Phantom. Phantom,although far from perfect, was still an enjoyable movie with plenty ofwhacked out Argento touches. The Stendhal Syndrome, starring Dario'sdaughter Asia, has a promising story that ultimately goes nowhere, andwith horrible CGI effects and slow pacing the movie fizzles out intonothing.The story centres on Detective Anna Manni (Argento) who is trackingdown an elusive serial killer/rapist in Florence. To Anna'sdisadvantage she suffers from Stendhal's syndrome in which she getsbouts of dizziness and hallucinations when she is exposed to the sightof paintings and artistic masterpieces. The killer begins to targetAnna, using her illness to his advantage.Argento creates an unsettling atmosphere throughout, this is definitelyone of his darkest movies. Camera-work has always been one of Argento'sstrongest points, and this movie is no different. There are somefantastic shots here, the streets of Florence are dark and menacing,and there is a excellent sequence where a victim is stalked through aroom of marble statues. Ennio Morricone's score is perfect, creating asuitably unsettling atmosphere.But these cannot save the movie from being generally uneven. Thestructure of the story is it's weakest point, with 2/3 of the moviededicated to the serial killer and the last 1/3 to Anna. There are manypoints where nothing really happens in a movie that ischaracter-driven. This, and shocking CGI in certain scenes where itreally wasn't needed detract from what could have been really good.2/5
I liked this movie, but I hated it too. I am an amateur video maker, and things like Profondo Rosso teach me how to move a camara. But he also teaches me what not to do. (those dialoges are awful) but the dvd. it is cheap, and Asia saves the film-She has a very sad,and passive face. And has a nice Italian voice.I like this movie primarily because he finally does not repeat himself, his style, the cheesy whodunit, his dolly -and-luma crane travelling sequences, and bets for a DIFFERENT approach-not too good-but a brave thing to do. He was rotting away with his Profondo Rosso(75) and Suspiria(77) formula in Trauma(92). I just hope this change is for the best.
Ok, I'll start off by saying this is my first Argento movie (I guess thatmakes me a horror poser), but I don't see why everyone is so upset about it.I think it's an incredible movie. I couldn't stop watching it, and I can'tsay that about a lot of movies. This is one of the most emotional moviesI've seen. It's a great thriller with some nice visual effects as well. Ifthis is his worst movie, then I have to see the others!
An young police detective Anna Mannai (Asia Argento) is tracking downan rapist/serial killer (Thomas Kretschmann), who's been terrorizing inCentral Italy. But Anna is been obsessed with the works of beautifulArt and she finds herself drawn into the unconscious mind of thesebeautiful paintings on the art gallery in Rome. But Anna's unusualreaction begins to haunt her of these painting, while the depravedkiller is stalking her and raping her as well. Once she gets control ofthe rapist/serial killer and killing him. Now Anna is becomesfascinated of what she experienced and she's becoming an sexualpredator/murderer herself.Directed by Dario Argento (Suspiria, Inferno, The Third Mother) made aninteresting, bizarre, stylish film with plenty of the director'strademark and as well for some suspenseful sequences. This surrealcrime thriller has elements of horror like most Argento's movies do.Director's daughter Asia gives an good performance here but she'sprobably quite too young to play an police detective. Since she wasonly 19 at the time, when the movie was made. Since the director triedto cast Bridget Fonda (Who's fan of Argento's work) and Jennifer JasonLeigh as the police detective but they doth declined. Argento chosenhis daughter for the lead. There's some controversial scenes in themovie, when the lead character gets raped and tortured as well. Whichis off-putting, especially when Argento is directing his daughter inthose scenes. But they both knew the risks they tacked in this film andalso it's not the first director to use their blood in those kind ofscenes.The Troma DVD is average at best, since Argento probably had an hardtime finding an US video release of his import film. But the Troma DVDis sleazy as well, when co-president Lloyd Kaufman and as wellco-president Michael Herz all over all the DVD features. Since theseguys will do anything to promoted their Grade Z movies.DVD has an OK non-anamorphic Widescreen (1.66:1) transfer and an decentEnglish Dolby 2.0 Stereo Surround Sound. DVD features are incrediblyboring at best but at least the two Troma Interviews with the directorare decent enough and sometimes quite interesting, it has an hiddenfeature (another interview with Argento), special effect crew memberinterview (who worked on the film) and more. The upcoming "BlueUnderground DVD" is an two-disc set with plenty of featurettes withdigitally remastered Picture Quality and Sound. Since thecinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno (All That Jazz, Popeye, Wolf)supervised this upcoming DVD edition.Argento's first half of this film is terrific but once it's enters thesecond half, the movie turns into an different style. Which it was moredisturbing in the first half, when Kretschmann (Who's best known fordifferent movies like "Resident Evil:Apocalyspe", "The Pianist" and"U-571") is around. The picture suffers from some awful CGI work. Sinceit was the first film to use Computerized Special Effects in Rome. Goodcamera-work by Rotunno and an memorable music score by legendarycomposer:Ennio Morricone (Once Upon an Time in the West, The Thing, TheUntouchables) make it worthwhile as well. Inspired from the novel byGraziella Magherini. Screenplay by the director and Franco Ferrini(Demons, Once Upon a Time in America, Phenomena). Certainly not for thefaint of heart. (*** Â½/*****).
For those that don't know I'm in the process of discovering Argento'sfilms for the first time, THE STENDHAL SYNDROME is my third endeavorfollowing OPERA which I didn't like and MOTHER OF TEARS better thanOPERA but its no masterpiece and has a lousy ending.THE STENDHAL SYNDROME wasn't as much a horror film for me as it wasmore of a psychological thriller, it follows assistant police inspectorAnna Manni (Asia Argento) who is on the trail of a sadistic serialkiller/rapist (Thomas Kretschmann) who stalks, rapes and then murdershis female victims, but Anna also has to content with the fact that shehas a condition called the Stendhal syndrome, a condition that causesher to lose herself in powerful works of art.In a way I liked the film, more than both OPERA and MOTHER OF TEARS, itwas more unconventional than a lot of other thrillers I've seen, theacting is actually good, the best performances in the film are given byAsia Argento and Thomas Kretschmann, the storyline is well thought outdespite having the tendency to drag at times.So far things are looking interesting, I can clearly tell thatArgento's films are not everyone's cup of tea but for me, this is thebest Argento film I've seen so far but I still feel that I have yet tobe impressed by Argento's films, STENDHAL SYNDROME was a good moviesure but it doesn't mean I haven't seen better, although there arestill so many to see, so who knows.Overall, STENDHAL SYNDROME is a good psychological thriller, itsclearly not for everyone but if you're also not familiar with Argentoand you may or may not be a little curious give it a shot, see what youthink.
Fete of Death"The Stendhal Syndrome" is a dark, brilliant, unnerving, and beautiful excursion into the mind of a policewoman who is brutally assaulted. Clearly, this is one of Dario Argento's masterworks, aided by a haunting score by the talented Ennio Morricone.Asia Argento, who plays the heroine, becomes unhinged by her violation. She was not a well woman to begin with, suffering fom a syndrome named after the writer Stendhal that causes her to faint when she views certain works of art that overwhelm her. Her sexual victimization pushes her over the brink of madness, and what ensues is sheer terror. She experiences difficulty distinguishing between fantasy and reality. Her psychological predicament becomes all the more heinous when reality, in the guise of her assailant who continues to stalk her, becomes more horrifying than the chimeras conjured by her overheated imagination.In its depiction of a woman's descent into madness, this film reminds me of Roman Polanski's "Repulsion," but Dario Argento's film is richer and fuller, whereas Polanski's is claustrophobic. "The Stendhal Syndrome" is Argento at the top of his game.--Bryan Cassiday, author of "Fete of Death"
THE STENDHAL SYNDROME (La Sindrome di Stendhal) Aspect ratio: 1.66:1Sound format: Dolby DigitalA sadistic rapist/serial killer (Thomas Kretschmann) targets a femalepolice officer (Asia Argento) who suffers from a rare medical conditionwhich causes her to faint in the presence of Great Art.Those disappointed by the perceived 'failure' of Dario Argento's TRAUMA(1993) are hardly likely to be reassured by THE STENDHAL SYNDROME, aheavygoing thriller quite unlike anything else in this director'sfilmography. Though punctuated by scenes of horrific violence - playedstraight by Argento, with few of his trademark stylistic flourishes -the film wastes a lot of valuable time on an otherwise laudable attemptto depict the long-term consequences of a vicious sexual assault on thecentral character, which slows the pace to a crawl. Furthermore, theharsh subject matter allows no room for levity, and Argento appears tosublimate his own cinematic instincts in deference to the sumptuousartwork that acts as a catalyst for the killer's activities.For all its shortcomings, however, there's a fierce intelligenceunderpinning the film's otherwise predictable scenario: Asiade-emphasizes her femininity in response to Kretschmann's initialattack (she cuts her hair short), and uses a long blonde wig tore-establish her sexuality after a second assault in which she emergesthe victor (or does she?), a device which minimizes the damage wroughtby a painfully obvious climactic 'twist'. Sadly, the movie is weakenedby yet another surly characterization by Asia (aggressive and petulant,with no redeeming warmth), and the supporting cast struggle to findtheir place within the narrative: Marco Leonardi is the devotedboyfriend cast aside in the wake of Asia's trauma; psychologist PaoloBonacelli stumbles on a terrible secret; and Julien Lambroschini is thenew man in Asia's life, a sweet young French boy who rescues her fromemotional exile. There's at least one terrific set-piece, in which apotential victim is stalked through a dimly lit room full of over-sizedmarble statues (a brilliantly edited sequence which suggests everythingand reveals nothing), and gorehounds will appreciate an audacious CGIshot of a bullet travelling through someone's head in glorious s-l-o-wmotion. Overall, "Stendhal" may not be vintage Argento, but it's tooclever and unsettling to be dismissed, and it gets under the skin likeno other horror film in recent memory.NB. This review is based on a viewing of both the Italian and Englishversions. For some strange reason, the latter print omits a crucialsequence depicting Asia's introduction to Lambroschini's mother(Veronica Lazar), which - on second viewing - is revealed as an act ofmonstrous betrayal...(English version)