"The Stendhal Syndrome" DVD Review

Synopsis:When beautiful police detective Anna Manni follows the bloody trail of a sophisticated serial murderer/rapist through the streets of Italy, the young woman falls victim to the bizarre "Stendhal Syndrome" - a hallucinatory phenomenon which causes her to lose her mind and memory in the presence of powerful works of art. Trapped in this twilight realm, Anna plunges deeper and deeper into sexual psychosis, until she comes to know the killer's madness more intimately than she ever imagined.

Review: First and foremost when you dive into a Dario Argento film you expect a few things. Most of all, you expect blood shed, a decently haunting score, and wonderful imagery and colors. I must say that these are all parts of this film and are really brought to life in it. I may be ridiculed for this, but unlike a lot of Argento's films Stendhal doesn't feel like it drags on. Most of the films longer scenes, feel like that they were extended for a solid reason whether it be character development or well crafted artistic scenes. A strange part of this film is that the first half plays like a typical Argento film, while the second half is more of a following of how the victim deals with the terrible trauma that has happened to her. Stendhal's scenes of art and insanity mix quite well and work very effectively weather it be a walk in a vibrant green painting or an underwater encounter with a one of a kind fish. These scenes play well while not being overly confusing and still being artistically beautiful. Not to mention the motif of dripping blood on the white cloth, although maybe a deeper meaning it's a visual experience that leaves me intrigued to say the least. Asia Argento, in the film is, of course, gorgeous and convincing. Being the director's daughter, I wonder how Argento felt about using her as the main target of the killer's sexual violence. This could have very well made Stendhal, one of Dario Argento's most personal works. Due to the "Stendhal Syndrome", Asia's personality changes drastically, brining up early emotions that could have been repressed. She becomes more aggressive and masculine, in sometimes awkwardly made scenes and even an occasional misplaced line is the result. For example "You have the right to shut up." The killer is convincing and quite depraved with his sexual tastes, of bloody lips and strangulation. None of the other actors tend to stand out. There is the sympathetic boyfriend, the art fanatic, the strange psychiatrist, the compassionate police chief, a detached family, some default boxer friends, and an array of victims. A strange aspect about this film is how it tends to show the killer in full view when Asia Argento sees him, but when other victims see the killer he is hidden in a similar fashion to other Giallo's.

All and all Stendhal Syndrome works effectively, and is a bit more realistic than Argento's other films. It delivers on what fans of Argento will enjoy. The film's twist is reminiscent of Tenebre, but still effective. The picture quality on the Blue Underground disc, I can only guess is an improvement of what the Troma DVD was, and I am glad to see Blue Underground acquiring the rights to such a film. Although, Troma can be awesome with the right film, did we need an introduction from Lloyd for the Stendhal Syndrome? I think we all know the answer here.

Movie 4 out of 5

-Darker Parker

Directed By:Dario Argento Released By: Blue Underground Year: 1996 (DVD Release 2007) Genre: Horror Website: www.blue-underground.com Time Length: 119 mins.