Thanks to its troubled release history and the multiple unsatisfying DVD releases over the years, I've seen The Stendhal Syndrome more times than any of Dario Argento's other films, which is probably a good thing since once past the initial disappointment at how little use it makes of the condition that gives it it's title there's a lot more to it than initially meets the eye. It's almost certainly 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, at first as a more masculine figure in an attempt to reclaim some of the power her rapist has taken from her, later as a more `pure' and feminine one, ultimately identifying all too closely with her attacker...
It's not a complete success but it's certainly Argento's most ambitious and psychologically profound film with the best female role in any of his films. Unfortunately, the fact that she's played by Asia Argento, an actress with more ferocity than subtlety doesn't help (it was originally written as a vehicle for Bridget Fonda, with Jennifer Jason Leigh subsequently briefly attached). 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 beyond acting as a trigger for the plot. The exceptionally bad cgi effects when it is don't help either, undercutting a couple of potentially interesting setpieces. Still, even if it's not essential viewing, it's much better than the likes of Phantom of the Opera or The Card Player and ultimately shows a surprising degree of sympathy for the character.
The film has always had a chequered history on DVD - Arrow's new PAL DVD is the uncut version, but for some reason the brief restored Italian sequences aren't subtitled into English and the only extra is the trailer for this and other Argento films. Troma's original US 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. 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's 2-disc NTSC release 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. Of the many versions available, Blue Underground's is definitely the one to go for.
on 29 April 2012
This is indeed another masterpiece of filmmaking from Dario Argento, a strange and dark descent into the world of a serial killer who is very select with his victims, Asia Argento plays a detective who becomes his latest obsession, the film starts out as your average thriller then gets more and more unusual as its plays out to the twisted and surprising ending! As usual the music score is great, theres allot of surreal moments and some nasty violence!! But most of all good story telling! Certainly worth checking out for any fan of Dario Argento. Will she escape from the clutches of a killer or will she be too overwhelmed by The Stendhal Syndrome, watch and see!!
on 17 February 2012
I could wax lyrical all day long about the genius of this film. The lightening, the acting, the direction the claustrophobic tension filled scenes. Argento's daughter, Asia is simply brilliant as the cop going slightly mad over time. Stendahl is like Vertigo's sister. It's brilliance at least in the 1990's is quite unequalled. A masterpiece yet again from the master.
on 16 July 2007
I don't find myself saying this about most recent Dario Argento - where the holes in the plot only widen under scrutiny - but, though flawed, this film actually improves with repeated viewings. We'll have to wait and see how his conclusion to his "Three Mothers" trilogy turns out but, for the time being, this is easily his best work starring his daughter Asia. The previous "Trauma" was little short of an absolute mess in which, whatever good intentions he may have started out with, Dario struggled to tie his anorexic heroine to the ludicrous plot. With "The Stendhal Syndrome" he deals again with psychological illness, this time more successfully despite the somewhat trivial nature of the titular condition.
The first 20 minutes or so has an extraordinary hallucinatory quality and is quite masterfully directed. Anna Manni (Asia Argento) visits the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, has a powerful reaction - the Stendhal Syndrome - to some of the paintings, faints, injures herself in falling and wakes up with short term memory loss, not knowing who she is. Dazed and confused she staggers outside where a 'helpful stranger' catches up with her, returns her abandoned handbag, puts her in a taxi and dispatches her back to her hotel. Once there, Anna begins to regain her memory while hallucinating under the joint influences of prescribed medication and a painting on her bedroom wall. This is very cleverly done, for the facts recalled - that she is a police officer from Rome hunting a serial rapist/murderer - are simultaneously revealed to Anna and we, the viewer, increasing our sympathy with her. Returning from her dream, Anna is attacked and raped by the man she is hunting, passes out and awakes to find him in the process of killing another victim with Anna's gun. Anna escapes and, disturbed by her experience, returns to Rome, is placed on light duties and starts seeing a psychiatrist. However, the killer is not finished with her yet...
So far, so good. One would expect there now to ensue a riveting game of cat-and-mouse, but this never really materializes to its full potential. The killer retreats back into the shadows and - curiously, because we know who he is, physically, if not by yet by name - Dario employs his typical subjective camera in his stead. Although there is some suggestion that the murderer views Anna's Stendhal Syndrome as a parallel with the reverie he loses himself in when he attacks women, this promising theme is underdeveloped. Instead, the film chooses - perhaps bravely, perhaps foolishly - to focus on Anna struggling to come to terms with what has happened to her in anticipation of her attacker's next move.
Sadly, as the film begins to plod towards its upsetting (though inevitable/predictable) conclusion our interest does wane. What keeps us watching is the novel inversion of Dario's standard 'giallo' format in which a subjective killer is ultimately unmasked from a group of suspects; as I have mentioned, here, for once, we know the killer's identity yet the film pulls away from him as it progresses. Of course, there is a very good reason for this but, nevertheless, it's still an interesting stylistic departure. It's also refreshing not to have Dario resorting to outrageous trickery to hide his killer; what concealment there is plays pretty fair though unfortunately it's more transparent than subtle.
Three other notable plus-points: a memorable Ennio Morricone score; some vivid location photography in Florence, Rome and Viterbo; and a brief appearance by the still-beautiful Cinzia Monreale, who played the blind girl in Lucio Fulci's "The Beyond" and also starred in Joe D'Amato's "Buio Omega"/"Beyond the Darkness".
on 4 May 2003
As an huge fan of Dario Argento’s work, I have to say that this film was a bit of a let down to me. The premise is that a police detective (Dario’s delightful daughter, Asia) is being stalked by a deranged rapist/murderer, but she also suffers from the Stendhal Syndrome of the title. This causes her to have frightening hallucinations whenever she is confronted with works of art. As he has just been assigned to catch the killer in Florence, this predictably turns out to be a major problem for her.
There are a few issues which bother me about this film. The first and most obvious (to fans anyway) is that it does not look like an Argento film. There are none of the awesome camera angles and shots that are the trademark of earlier films such as Suspiria, Tenebrae or Phenomena. A quote on the DVD cover claims that it is “as gory and hard as Tenebrae”. It is nowhere near.
The second problem is the casting of Asia in the main role as Anna, the detective. Apart from the fact that she looks about fourteen years old, she just doesn’t have the charisma to pull it off successfully. She’s a very attractive girl and so watchable in that sense, but she never convinces in her character.
Thirdly, for the most part, the film is just boring. There are long passages where nothing of consequence happens, and you find yourself wishing for the killer to strike again, just to liven things up. Argento films never used to be like this, did they?
It’s not all bad news, though. There is an interesting twist ending (par for the course from this director, though) and as already mentioned, I could look at Asia Argento all day long. Not a bad film on its own terms then, but it struggles to live up to the reputation of its illustrious predecessors.
Firstly, I saw this on The Horror Channel and it was dubbed into 'American', which spoiled the authenticity of it all and cheapened it. I saw Argento's "Opera", which I loved and that was in its original Italian and was superb.
Others have generally written lengthy reviews but I'm keeping it short, partly as I'm not really a fan of horror and not an expert on the subject.
Therefore, I take as I find.
I didn't mind the blood, or the body injury details but I did object to the sexual violence. Anybody who has any sense of human sensitivity would object too and whilst this is a part of the story, as it involves a serial rapist who then murders, watching it is near impossible. I don't know whether I'm saying Argento shouldn't have included those scenes, or not, but for me, they cloud the rest of the film and I find I cannot judge it fairly.
I do like the creepiness that hovers around much of it, though the syndrome that causes Asia Argento debilitating hallucinations, with the works of art probably goes too far. I admire Argento's bold and vivid visuals as a whole, in both this and others of his I've seen - these are his major assets. However, the CSI type CGI'd visuals look out of place but of course we now compare them with CGI technology 15 years later.
The film then moves into murder mystery zone rather than horror but I'm afraid that I'd lost concentration and interest by then. With the dodgy dubbing and stilted action it had lost its pace - and appeal. After the excellent 'Opera', this later Argento is disappointing, despite some interesting directorial flourishes.
on 18 October 2001
Most usually refered to as the itialian hitchcock argento to me is more of an italian david cronenberg... and i think thats a good thing tho many hate cronenbergs ambiguity and style as much as they do argento... but well asia is on fine form retreating into traumatised alienation and the direction is slow and deliberate in a way that i always found intriguing tho some may find boring and some of the themes do seem a bit jumbled but once again thats the sort of thing i like- to make my own sense of things rather than have it imposed by the director- something which another of my well loved filmmakers william friedken would probably agree with - all in all i found the juxtaposition with very documentary and sharp realism with symbolism and surealism very satisfying! And as a complaint for bizare motives behind having his daughter raped on camera brutally more than once... well an actress is an actress is an actress and asia is an especially talented one who portrays fragility and madness well...
on 1 November 2013
I liked this release very much, good picture quality and the same for the audio. Good to have the movie in the original Italian audio (with Asia's real voice).
My only complaint is the lack of Eng. subs for the extra interviews of Asia and Dario.
on 7 February 2011
The Stendhal Syndrome features a wonderful concept and some gorgeous cinematography, and while the script isn't perfect, the pacing of the film and the visuals make up for any plot difficulties. Fans of Asia Argento won't be disappointed either, as while she seems rather young in this for the character she's playing, she carries it off with typical style. The much-maligned CGI in this film isn't all that bad, and if you keep in mind the era this was made in, it fits just fine. While not as gory or visceral as many of Argento's films, The Stendhal Syndrome is an excellent thriller with a very unnerving premise. Give it a chance. This edition is superb, with a beautifully painted artwork poster and a fascinating reel of all of the trailers for Argento's movies. More extra features would have been nice, but it's the best edition of the film around.
on 25 October 2011
Although the cover says it is the original uncut version, if fails to say from which country.
In the full uncut version - presumably Italian, there is a long sequence where the rapist uses the pistol to taunt Anna manni, and then he proceeds to give the gun oral. This is all missing in this version.
Other Argento gem like Trauma have also been released 'uncut', but where is the decapitated head landing on the spike at the bottom of the evelvator shaft?
if youre an Argento fan, please do buy carefully, if you want the FULL uncut films.