Written by: Michael Den Boer on August 19th, 2007
Theatrical Release Date: Italy, January 26th, 1996
Director: Dario Argento
Writers: Dario Argento, Franco Ferrini
Cast: Asia Argento, Thomas Kretschmann, Marco Leonardi, Luigi Diberti, Paolo Bonacelli
DVD released: September 25th, 2007
Approximate running time: 119 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Sound: DTS English, Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital Stereo English, Dolby Digital 5.1 Italian, Dolby Digital Stereo Italian
DVD Release: Blue Underground
Region Coding: Region 0 NTSC
Retail Price: $29.95
Synopsis: Anna Manni (Asia Argento), a detective with the anti-rape squad receives a tip shortly after arriving in Florence that a serial rapist who she has been pursing is in town. Anna’s informant agrees to meet her at the Uffizi Gallery with more info about the serial rapist. Shortly after Anna enters the gallery she is overcome by the paintings which transform themselves before her eyes causing her to faint and hit her head on a table. When Anna regains consciousness she is help by an attractive man named Alfredo. Not knowing who she is or why she was there she refuses Alfredo’s help. Anna now in the safety of her hotel recovering from the events early in the day she is confronted by Alfredo who happens to be the serial rapist she has been tracking. He overpowers her as he rapes her psychically and mentally. Somehow Anna manages to escape from Alfredo before he has a chance to kill her. Anna now suffering from the dementia brought on by the “The Stendhal Syndrome” must also deal with the fact Alfredo is still at large with the possibility that he might come back and finish her off.
The Stendhal Syndrome like many of Dario Argento’s post Opera films seems to divide his fans base. It is by far and away his most gritting and at times realistic film which is in direct contrast with his carnage filled orgies which walk the fine line between nightmares and reality. The genius of the story where individuals can be overcome by great works of art is not only plausible it has been used by many murders as their excuse to their crimes. This is what also makes the film even more disturbing that the things it portrays often occur in the real world and that they are not just the authors Imagination.
The cast for Stendhal Syndrome is one of the better assembled by Argento since the height of his popularity the 1980’s. The cast is anchored by the Asia Argento’s genuine and often fascinating performance of a woman who after the tragedy of being raped goes through an identity crisis. One could almost call The Stendhal Syndrome Dario Argento’s own take on the Ingmar Bergman film” Persona”.
Visually there are many great Argento set pieces in the Stendhal Syndrome and a few of them are very bloody. Two of the films greatest assets are Giuseppe Rotunno’s picturesque photography and Ennio Morricone’s hallucinogenic score of cacophony sounds which evoke their own Stendhal like Syndrome on the listener. One of the things that enjoy the more about The Stendhal Syndrome than any other Dario Argento film is that it always feels new and familiar no matter how many times you watch it. Ultimately The Stendhal Syndrome is Dario Argento’s most transitional film and only now is it finally getting the recognition it deserves for its daring and at times innovative take on the thriller genre.
Like many Dario Argento fans my first exposure to the Stendhal Syndrome was via Troma’s murky and damn near unwatchable DVD release from nearly eight years ago. Since then I have purchased the region 2 Dutch Filmworks release of less then stellar quality and then I bought the Italian release from Medusa which comes with a gorgeous looking transfer. Now we have the soon to be released Stendhal Syndrome from Blue Underground which makes the fourth DVD of this film I have acquired (making it the most different releases of any Argento film that I have acclimated).
Transfer wise the Blue Underground release looks breath taking with its vivid colors and razor sharp clarity. Out of all the Dario Argento films that have been released in region 1 I would say that this is the best looking transfer that any Argento film has ever gotten in North America. This transfer has been flagged for progressive playback.
This release like the Medusa release comes with two audio options Italian and English with English subtitles. For this release both languages are presented in the film full 119 minute time lengths with English subtitles appearing during scenes that were never dubbed while watching the English language audio track. The two audio mixes sound robust and there are no audio defects.
Extras for this release consist of the films English language trailer and five interviews “Director” Dario Argento (20 minutes), “Inspiration: Psychological Consultant” Graziella Magherini (21 minutes), “Special Effects” Sergio Stivaletti (16 minutes), “Assistant Diretcor” Luigi Cozzi (22 minutes) and “Production Designer” Massimo Antonello Geleng (23 minutes) – all five interviews are in Italian with English subtitles. All the interviews are very interesting with the Dario Argento and Luigi Cozzi interviews being the best of the lot. While most basis are covered for this excellent release I am slightly disappointed that two of its major contributors Asia Argento and the films composer Ennio Morricone are not interviewed. Besides this slight misstep the rest of the extras do a good job cover any gaps.
Just when you thought that you wouldn’t have to replace your previous DVD of the Stendhal Syndrome with a new one along comes Blue Underground and they give this highly underrated masterpiece its long overdue special edition release, highly recommended.