The Stendthal Syndrome (1996)
Director: Dario Argento
Paolo Boncelli/Dr. Cavanna
Anna (Argento) is having a bad day. Not only is she hunting a violent serial killer/ rapist, but the sick boy also has a crush on her. To make things worst our sexy heroine is afflicted by a disorder called the "Stendthal Syndrome". This disease makes her trip out every time she stares at art. Lets just say with the killer taking more chances and her mind being blurred by the syndrome, this bad day is about to get worse…
This has to be Argento’s sickest flick. The man is well known for his extreme violence against women in his films but here he also slaps in the rape element. Argento deals with rape the same way he deals with gore…in your face. It’s not pleasant.
This film is two movies in one. The first half is Argento classic, a twisted serial killer plot filled with rape, masochistic tendencies, hallucinations and blood galore. The second half reminded me of Polanski's "Repulsion". We witness Anna’s descent into madness and reality is not what it seems to be. That’s where the movie falters.
The first half of the film is very solid. The Stendthal Syndrome gives Argento a lot of room to indulge himself in excessive visuals (seeing Anna enter paintings is a sight to behold), the story is fascinating, the kills are violent, the mood is bleak and the flick never stops surprising you.
But the film lost me in it’s second half. It throws in a plot twist that I guessed early on and all I had left was to wait for the film to catch up with me. It doesn’t help that the pace of the last half or the new direction it takes is not nearly as exciting as it’s electrifying first half. It plods along slowly till its foregone conclusion.
Don’t get me wrong dudes 'n dudettes, flawed Argento is still better than half the crap out there. We still get extreme violence, crazy shots, a great lead actress (in Miss Asia Argento) and some seriously whacked out visuals. It’s just too bad that Argento drops his load too soon.
What do you think? Argento hasn’t gotten any softer with time. Here he mixes sex and pain. The killer loves playing around with razor blades or blowing girls heads off with a gun at point blank range while he’s raping them. Mark my words this film is brutal.
Asia Argento (Anna) proves once again that she’s an actress to be reckoned with. She carries the film with her sexy presence and strong acting abilities. I think I’m in love. Marco Leonardi (Marco) is just a boring character that has "victim" written on his forehead from the get go. Julian Sands look-alike Thomas Kretschmann ( Alfredo) is chilling as the good-looking psycho, he relishes the nasty part and you will fear him. Paolo Boncelli (Cavanna) is effective as the shrink. There’s an air of mystery about him.
T & A
None that I could remember.
Argento goes all out again. Slow motion bullets entering a woman’s cheek, going through her mouth and exiting in bloody splendor. A shot of pills entering Anna’s system from inside her body. I loved the shot when the gun goes off and the killer’s reflection is caught on the bullet. Argento still goes crazy with the camera, spinning it around, underhand shots, overheads…the works. Also the way he deals with Anna’s paintings hallucinations is trippy enough to give Leonard Maltin acid flashbacks. Another solid show.
A brilliant eerie score by Ennio Morricone.
A sick, sadistic, visual feast that isn’t for the faint of heart. Sure, the second half doesn’t live up to its kickarse first half but only half of Stendthal Syndrome is better than half the thrillers out there. Make sure to get the unrated version and brace yourself for a stomach churning gore filled flick. Why the Americans are still ignoring a director of Argento’s skill is beyond me. He rules.
Asia Argento has followed in her father’s footsteps and helmed a film as a director. It’s called: The Scarlett Diva.