Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Stendhal Syndrome

The Stendhal Syndrome is not one of Argento's stronger movies, but it's a movie that is packed with interesting parts. I believe that may be the best way to approach this film - viewing it as a film of parts and halves.

According to the WIKI:
Stendhal syndrome, Stendhal's syndrome, hyperkulturemia, or Florence syndrome is a psychosomatic disorder that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, fainting, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to an experience of great personal significance, particularly viewing art.

The spoiler free review is simple.

Dario's daughter, Asia Argento, plays Det. Anna Manni. When we meet her, she's rather frantically exploring a museum and we're not sure what she's doing there. She strolls through, viewing the paintings and artworks with a sort of crazy desperation. She collapses after seeing artwork come to overwhelming life before her. As she starts to come to her senses, we find out that she's a detective on the trail of a serial rapist/murderer. Unfortunately, it seems she's the object of his obsessions - a pet project. She catches up with him, but he gets the upper hand and has his way with her violently. And so begins their odd, destructive, violent, and horrifying relationship.

I won't say much more to avoid spoilers.

Hitchcock had to be the influence for this film - there is a Hitchcock vibe throughout the film in the introduction of characters, pace, lighting and framing, and plot development. It's very interesting to compare this to something like Vertigo which is another film of halves. There are Brian De Palma aspects to the film as well, especially in the lighting and the use of shadows. Of course, Dario Argento is no stranger to fantastic lighting - I would never say that he was just copying other directors. Not at all.

The Stendhal effects in the film are rather wild. Artwork slowly slips into life with sounds and vibrancy, then eventually Det. Manni actually interacts with the artwork and is able to move inside the art itself. There are some stunning scenes in this film.

Asia is adorable as always and manages to stretch a bit as an actress here. She really gives her all and runs a full range of emotion from whimpering, helpless damsel to aggressive wildcat.  I thought she did a grand job working with the acting tools at her disposal.

Thomas Kretschmann plays a wondrous horror as the rapist. He went on to play Dracula in Argento's Dracula 3D...which I actually kinda liked, though everyone HATED it! hehehe  My expectations were subterranean. He's a monster in Stendhal as well - an evil creature. Marco Leonardi is also in this, though his acting and the role is a major step down from CINEMA PARADISO, I have to say.

Now, I watched this as part of my GIALLO OCTOBER fest - now to be referred to as...wait for it....


However, this really doesn't fit into my definition of classic giallo or even horror to be honest. More like "giallo light"or classic thriller. However there are still giallo-like elements at play here. And, the film is very heavy on some major dramatic elements as well.

The subject matter is rough, for sure. Very hard to watch. Brutal acts of violent rape are portrayed, albeit as tastefully as they could possibly be. I'm not even sure there is any nudity in the film. There are several non-sexual acts of violence as well, but unlike other Argento films like DEEP RED, they are not overplayed and could possibly be counted on one hand, really. Another interesting aspect of the film.

The film is long. Too long. It could have easily told the same story with a tight 90 to 100 minute running time. At roughly 2 hours in length, it's easily split into two stories. However, the time isn't completely wasted. Argento looked like he was trying to create something beyond what he had before artistically and it shows. It's visually interesting throughout and packed with visual and audio style choices that add to the overall "edge of sanity"feel of the film.

It was obvious to me that Dario Argento was trying to make a statement with the film. The last few scenes of the film really hit home for me and helped to erase any lingering feelings of the film's running time being too long or the story being thin in parts out of my mind - it's a powerful wrap up for a story that was surprisingly deep and effective.

Other Argento films should be watched before this, but The Stendhal Syndrome should definitely be part of any Argento fan's viewing list. Check it!

A great soundtrack as well! (below)

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