The Stendhal Syndrome

Viewed – 22 December 2007  DVD

Special Edition

Ok, lets begin by saying this is probably the best release of this underrated Dario Argento film thus far – easily matching the former best version, the Medusa Italian DVD, which it has to be said was not so easily obtainable, therefore making this release a sigh of relief for fans.

Asia Argento’s (XXX, Scarlet Diva) second film under the direction of her father, horror movie icon Dario Argento, is one of the films that has divided opinion amongst fans. Some just can’t take to it, while others regard it as a triumph.  A departure of sorts from Dario Argento’s usual theme of black gloved killer who’s identity isn’t unmasked until the very end, this slow burning, creepy psychological horror follows the story of Police Woman Anna (Asia Argento) who suffers from an unusual illness called The Stendhal Syndrome, brought on after exposure to works of art, resulting in hallucinations.  After an unnerving experience at a gallery whilst on the trail of a serial rapist, Anna is attacked and raped. What begins as a who-dunnit soon turns into a disturbing battle of the sexes, ands its not until the film takes a sharp change in direction half way through, that you can appreciate just how intelligent this film really is.

Dario here shows another string to his directing bow.  Breaking away from his normal routine, he delivers a very different but no less effective chiller.  It is also one of his most powerful films, especially as we watch Anna’s gradual descent into madness (a wonderfully subtle performance), and Dario’s quality camera work and eye for the unexpected (a woman is shot, and we see the bullet pass in slow motion through her cheek and come out the other side) once again impresses.  Such a shift in style may cause you to overlook this film’s many strong points, as for me I only really got to understanding it after my third viewing.

As this version is the full extended cut of the film, I am pleased to say it features a few new scenes, although these add nothing to the experience, and as they are subtitled and clearly of varying picture quality, their inclusion seems unnecessary – but not too intrusive.  It’s by no means the travesty of Anchor Bay’s Deep Red which splices previously missing scenes into the film, although as they were originally intended, but ruin the experience due to frequent jumps from subtitles to english dubbing.American label Blue Underground though have once again done an Argento classic justice (I thoroughly recommend their release of his debut, The Bird With The Crystal Plumage), with attractive menus, some solid extras that really unearth some good information on the making of the film and those involved, and this time the picture quality is good – even if dark scenes still feel rather too dark, but its a vast improvement all round from the Dutch Film Works release, especially with Dolby Digital 5.1 ES and 6.1 DTS soundtracks, as well as similar fair for Italian.

Verdict:  4 /5

Further reading

DVD Times review

(from fellow Argento fan Michael Mackenzie)

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