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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This Argento movie has more to offer than people might think, February 11, 2008
This review is from: The Stendhal Syndrome (2-Disc Special Edition) (DVD)
When it came to the 90s a lot of horror filmmakers who had their rise to fame in the 70s and 80s were for some reason unable to make the transition into the 90s. In general most filmmakers don't get better with age they get worse. Of course there are always exceptions. I believe Dario Argento was one of the exceptions, well sort of. I think the 90s started off well for him, Trauma was a much underrated movie in my opinion. While you can see he was starting to lose it just a bit, he still made a solid movie.

The Stendhal Syndrome continues that; it's a movie by a director who reached greatness and is still hanging on to that. This is one of those movies that really stands-out in Argento's career; for starters The Stendhal Syndrome is a lot darker than his previous movies. It has more in common with a 70s exploitation flick than it does what Argento is known for. Like I said The Stendhal Syndrome is a lot darker than Argento's past movies and even at times feels a lot more real. Dario Argento was a filmmaker who really knew how to create a sense of dread and doom and while it doesn't always work here for the most part it has that feel through out.

The Stendhal Syndrome as I stated really does stand-out; at times it's almost like a different filmmaker and that is actually a very good thing. Argento strays from his formula of past movies and makes a very solid and in my opinion a much underrated movie in his brilliant career. While he does stray in parts there are also flashes of what made Dario Argento one of the most Iconic horror filmmakers of all time. The Stendhal Syndrome is labeled a Giallo and while it does have those elements it strays from the typical conventions of what a Giallo is.

The screenplay by Dario Argento was overall rather solid. A lot of people tend to forget that he is actually a good writer. If you go back and view his early work such as The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Deep Red they were very well written and while the only weakness in Argento as a filmmaker could possibly be seen as a writer he did manage to write some solid scripts. But really starting with Suspiria his scripts did start to lack. That isn't to say they were badly written, but they often lacked logic and it was Dario Argento the director that made those movies he did starting with Suspiria such brilliant horror movies.

Unlike some of his past movies, The Stendhal Syndrome is very character driven. While there are some murder scenes and some being very graphic the movie relies more on character moments rather than action and I think it was done rather well. Argento sort of took elements from his past movies, but mixed them up. By this time in his career I think that had to be done. He could have played it safe and done the typical Giallo, but I think that would have hurt the movie and suffered from the, been there, done that. In most Giallos it's about the murders and the investigation. But here in The Stendhal Syndrome the murders and investigation take a backseat and the primary focus is on Anna Manni played by Asia Argento.

Again even though I do think early in his career Argento was an excellent writer and than became a good writer his movies weren't really known for their characters. While he did create some interesting characters over his career when talking about his movies the characters often come last. But The Stendhal Syndrome is one movie where you'll probably mention the character of Anna Manni first.

On the visual side you know what to expect, while it's not Suspiria or Inferno, the movie still looks quite good from a visual side, but Argento seemed to tone down his normal style, which in this case I believe was a good thing. Argento just might be the best visual director to ever grace the silver screen. But in a movie like this I think Argento's visual style could possibly take away, so it was a wise move to downplay it. But there are many great visual moments; it's a Dario Argento film, but visually the movie is good, but it wasn't a movie to show off his visual style.

Don't go into The Stendhal Syndrome expecting the typical Argento movie; like I said this is quite different. There are a couple of murders, but they aren't the main star of the movie and actually there can be long stretches without one. The Stendhal Syndrome does move slowly in some areas, but I don't think it ever gets boring. I always say there is more to filmmaking than just story-telling. This is hard to explain without making Argento sound bad, but in general his movies weren't about story-telling at least as his career went on. But this time around he goes back to that and tells a story of Anna Manni who goes through some pretty horrific events and goes through this mental breakdown. It's all handled quite well and very believable.

Any fan of Italian horror knows that often enough the movies can sometimes be incoherent or slightly incoherent. Sometimes something will happen without an explanation or a plot twist that doesn't really seem to make a whole lot of sense. In the case of Argento, his movies can often be seen as a nightmare and I suppose it makes sense when things don't make sense. But The Stendhal Syndrome is very coherent and is as much a drama as it is a horror movie. The Stendhal Syndrome proves again Dario Argento can not only write, but tell a story.

The cast is pretty good led by Asia Argento. Most complaints is she looks to young to be a detective, while I guess that is true, I loved Asia in this movie and the way her character transforms from the first half of the movie to what she becomes in the 2nd half was believable and she does an excellent job at playing both. I just adore Asia Argento and despite some complaints I thought she was simply amazing. Thomas Kretschmann is pretty good as Alfredo Grossi the villain, but the movie wasn't really about him. I would have liked to have seen him have a little more screen time, but he does well in his role, which is quite pivotal to Asia's character. Marco Leonardi as Marco Longhi also delivers a good performance. All the cast members were pretty good actually and is probably one of the better acted movies done by Argento.

I also enjoyed how the movie changes in the 2nd half. It's sort of like 2 movies for the price of 1. The 2nd half the movie changes focus, but it doesn't feel out of place it actually works quite well. A lot of times when a movie changes focus in the 2nd half it barley works, but to Argento's credit he is able to mix it up and make everything work and work very well. The first half and the 2nd half both fit together, but the focus does change a bit.

In closing, The Stendhal Syndrome isn't a perfect movie there are some elements that come across as slightly silly, but as a whole the movie works very well and in my opinion this movie is much underrated by Argento fans. It was a slight change of pace and works well. After this though things would mostly go downhill for Dario Argento, but The Stendhal Syndrome, while not the best work in his career can stand proud next to his brilliant body of work.

Interestingly enough, 2004's The Card Player was originally meant to be a sequel, but when Asia Argento wasn't available it became its own movie. The lead character in The Card Player is named Anna Mari rather than Manni. Not sure how it would have worked, but interesting.
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Showing 1-10 of 12 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 11, 2008 3:00:11 PM PST
M. says:
Hey Dave I agree, I liked Stendhal. Its no Suspiria but better than most people credit it for. Yeah Asia dd seem way too young to play a detective and honestly I think her performance was horrible, I actually think she was much better in Trauma which I also think is underrated. Great review, see ya.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 11, 2008 4:22:45 PM PST
Haven't seen this one yet. You say it's no Suspiria but I can't remember seeing anything like Suspiria. I'll definitly check this out. Great review Dave.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 11, 2008 4:34:56 PM PST
Dave. K says:
Hey M. I'm a big fan of Trauma actually. It's one of my fave Argento flicks and gets way too much heat from his fans. As for Stendhal yeah it does deserve more credit than it gets. It's an interesting character study, something Argento has never really done. As for Asia I totally adore her LOL. So I'll never say a negative thing about her. Blinded by love.

Hey MM. If you like Argento at all Stendhal is worth a viewing, but he does stray from the typical style he's known for. And personally I think it was a good change

Posted on Feb 11, 2008 6:53:36 PM PST
Stanley Runk says:
You know, my only complaint about this has been Asia. I certainly don't have anything against her, nor am I one of those folks who has a gripe about her being too young to play a detective. I just found it hard to work up any sympathy for her character. I know she's supposed to be experiencing a sort of mental collapse throughout the movie during the course of these horrific events. The problem is, you never see her in a "normal" state at any point in the movie. The film begins with her as having some serious mental baggage, so right from the start she's off kilter, it only intensifies. It was just hard for me to work up sympathy for a loony who just gets loonier. But I certainly can't say her performance was bad. Her acting was good(playing head cases is kinda her specialty it seems), in fact it was very good at some points. It was just the character. I love the movie though. Definitely one of the most(if not THE most) underrated of Argento's films.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 12, 2008 12:51:20 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 12, 2008 12:54:22 AM PST
Not to worry Runk. I'm going to talk to Asia personally about her performance
and get to her bottom of things

Hey Dave number 100 coming up...I know it will be for SHOCKER II ELECTRIC BOOGALOO

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 12, 2008 2:05:48 AM PST
Puzzle box says:
Yes I agree Dave this was a very underrated Dario Argento flick the only problem was Asia Argento she looked too young to play a detective, I have the old version released by Troma they did a terrible job of transferring this film and the special features have an interview with Ruggero Deodato for Cannibal Holocaust which has nothing to do with this film but I still thought it was interesting. Anyway I might sell my old copy and get this new edition from Blue Underground.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 12, 2008 7:40:43 AM PST
Dave. K says:
Hey Runk, yea I agree that we never really get to know the character in a normal state, that's one of the reasons I couldn't give this 5-stars. It can be tough to connect with the character, but due to what happens to her I thnik the viewer can get some kind of sympathy.

Hey Clint- Speaking of Shocker rumor has it there is to be a remake directed by Craven!

Hey Puzzle- Asia was only like maybe 19 or 20 when she did Stendhal so yeah on the young side, but it didn't bother me much. I haven't seen the Troma DVD, but I did have a copy I recorded off cable and the transfer was horrible. the Blue Underground DVD has a great transfer and a couple of scenes not in any previos prints. The 2nd disc is alright. I was sort of bored with the interviews, but the picture and audio on the movie are excellent

Posted on Feb 12, 2008 10:56:44 AM PST
Woopak says:
Very in-depth review, Dave. I like Asia Argento and this film sounds like its worth a view. Thanks for the review, bud. I really like the first 4-5 paragraphs you've written, full of analysis and depth.
Keep them coming!

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 12, 2008 11:41:22 AM PST
Dave. K says:
Thanks a lot woopak. Great another Asia fan. I adore her so much. Love the whole Argento clan LOL. But Asia is my fave excluding Dario of course.

Runk brought up a good point on how we never really know Asia's character prior to her breakdown, but we do get flashes. It's very character driven, I think you'd like it. Thanks for stopping by.

1 more till 100!

Posted on Feb 13, 2008 12:19:08 AM PST
Great review Dave. This was my first Dario flick. It has its moments, but definitely not my favorite by him. I remember wishing for more surreal stuff with the paintings.
Take care bud...
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