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The Stendhal Syndrome (DVD Details)

Unique ID Code: 0000127285
Added by: David Beckett
Added on: 19/3/2010 17:04
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    The Stendhal Syndrome

    6 / 10

    This is one of the few, if not the only, major films by Dario Argento that I hadn't seen as my DVD collection is pretty well stocked with Argento movies so I was happy that arrow video are releasing it, with the usual packaging as part of a Argento triple bill with Terror at the Opera and The Card Player.

    Based on the novel of the same name by Graziella Magherini, The Stendhal Syndrome follows Detective Anna Manni who is trying to track down a serial rapist and murderer. When she is in an art gallery, followed by a strange man, Anna begins to hallucinate and passes out, banging her face on the table as she falls. When she regains consciousness, Anna realises that her gun is gone but accepts help from the mysterious stranger.

    When she returns home, Anna begins receiving strange phone calls and she begins to suspect that the wanted man is after her. First though, she needs to find out what is happening to her mind and her psychiatrist diagnoses her as suffering from the titular disorder, in which artwork comes to life and causes her to become fully immersed in the material..

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    It's not long before the killer tracks her down and imprisons her in a cave where she is subjected to his warped behaviour but manages to escape, badly wounding him in the process. Refusing to believe that he is dead despite having shot him, stabbed him in the throat and broken his neck before kicking him into a surging river, Anna disguises herself in a blond wig and begins a relationship with a French art student called Marie.

    Increasingly paranoid and seeking solace in art, Anna's mental state comes under increasing pressure with a killer, using the same MO, targeting those near her. Suddenly she begins to suspect that her psychiatrist may be involved as he knows her so well and has a habit of turning up at murder scenes before they have been made public knowledge.

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    This is a strange film from Dario Argento, almost devoid of the aspects that made his early films so distinctive and brilliant. The Stendhal Syndrome still works as a thriller/horror with a surprisingly adept performance by his daughter, Asia Argento, in the lead role. Her acting has been derided but she is pretty good here, utterly convincing and impressive in displaying both inner fortitude and mental instability. As the serial killer Alfredo Grossi, Thomas Kretschmann is suitably creepy, menacing and violent and his scenes with Asia Argento are great to watch.

    This doesn't quite work as a superb psychological horror, which is what you expect from Argento and it falls short of his own high standards. That said, I found it a really interesting and involving film that is an enjoyable, though flawed, experience. I shall certainly return to it in the near future.

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    The Disc

    Extra Features

    Disappointingly, all the disc contains is the theatrical trailer and a sixteen film Dario Argento trailer reel. As usual, the box has a reversible sleeve, poster and booklet with this one featuring an essay by Argento expert Alan Jones.

    The Picture

    With vibrant colours, good black levels and skin tones, this is an impressive and detailed transfer that showcases the fine direction and excellent cinematography very well. Argento uses the locations around Florence and Rome superbly, unsurprising as he is intimately familiar with the settings, and the location shooting pays dividends.

    The CGI used to demonstrate and present Anna's struggles with reality as she plunges into paintings is a little unconvincing and seems a bit cheap and dated by today's standards, despite the film being only 14 years old.

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    The Sound

    A clear and well balanced Dolby Digital 5.1 English soundtrack that presents the dialogue well and uses the surrounds for the score, atmospherics and to fully immerse you in Anna's breakdowns.

    Final Thoughts

    The Stendhal Syndrome is a well crafted psychological horror that, though interesting, well written and gory when it needs to be, doesn't live up to the high standards that Argento has set for himself. I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy it and, though the final reveal is far from surprising, this is a neatly constructed thriller that Argento fans should defiantly check out.

    Your Opinions and Comments

    I loved this movie!
    posted by Curtis Owen on 19/3/2010 23:42