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The Stendhal Syndrome(1996)
When beautiful police detective Anna Manni follows the bloody trail of a sophisticated serial murderer/rapist through the streets of Italy, the young woman falls victim to the bizarre "Stendhal Syndrome" - a hallucinatory phenomenon which causes her to lose her mind and memory in the presence of powerful works of art. Trapped in this twilight realm, Anna plunges deeper and deeper into sexual psychosis, until she comes to know the killer's madness more intimately than she ever imagined.
Horror maestro Dario Argento (Suspiria, Opera) reaches new heights of florid fantasy and Grand Guignol with this warped work of art starring Maxim Magazine's "Sexiest Woman in the World" Asia Argento (Land Of The Dead, XXX), Thomas Kretschmann (King Kong, Blade II) and Marco Leonardi (From Dusk Till Dawn 3). Previously edited outside of Italy, The Stendhal Syndrome is now presented here in stunning High Definition, transferred under the supervision of cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno (All That Jazz, Amarcord) from the original Italian 35mm interpositive, and loaded with exclusive Extras.
For more about The Stendhal Syndrome and the The Stendhal Syndrome Blu-ray release, see the The Stendhal Syndrome Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on September 22, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Asia Argento, Thomas Kretschmann, Marco Leonardi, Luigi Diberti, Paolo Bonacelli
Director: Dario Argento
» See full cast & crew
The Stendhal Syndrome Blu-ray Review
Blue Underground delivers a wonderfully cinematic transfer for this Argento Horror picture.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, September 22, 2009
Works of art have power over us.
For many casual moviegoers, the term "Horror" likely brings to mind -- and rightfully so -- images of Freddy, Jason, and Michael; it's the American-style hack-and-slash of the 1980s and the more recent trend of grisly, ultra-realistic fare like Saw that have come to define the genre. That's all well and good, but such films tend to only touch the surface of what true terror is all about. Italian filmmaker Dario Argento has made a career of pushing boundaries not of blood and guts but of the mind, painting through his films vivid pictures that, yes, contain their fare share of carnage but, more importantly, examine true, deeply-inflicted, psychological pain and suffering. That theme began with his debut work, 1970's The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, and continues through to one of his more recent outings, 1996's The Stendhal Syndrome, a psychological character study about the after-effects of rape and the true terror, mental anguish, and emotional confusion that can manifest itself in even the strongest of individuals.
Rome, Italy Detective Anna Manni (Asia Argento) has been assigned to Florence, Italy to pursue the case against a murder suspect. There, she collapses while in a museum, suffering from the so-called "Stendhal Syndrome," an affliction that causes its victims to become physically and emotionally overwhelmed in the presence of art. She recovers with the help of a good Samaritan named Alfredo (Thomas Kretschmann), though finds that her police-issued pistol is missing from her purse's contents. She again suffers a series of similar hallucinations while in her hotel room where, under the art's spell, she falls victim to Alfredo --armed with her own gun -- who tortures and rapes her and feeds his fetish for human blood. Anna becomes traumatized by the event, finding herself incapable of coping with the aftermath, though she does seeks out the help of a counselor and alters her physical appearance in response to her unstable emotional state. Nevertheless, she suffers further life-altering events that lead her deeper down a path of psychological decay with seemingly no hope in sight.
The Stendhal Syndrome is a film of strengths and weaknesses. The film's strongest asset is Argento's fantastic eye for all things Horror, both assumed and frighteningly real; on the other hand, the film lingers on for far too long and, while the finale yields something of a good surprise, there's simply too much clutter in the second and third acts to keep up the audience's attention span to that point, particularly considering the film's gripping open. In the film's first segment, Argento does well to create a bone-chilling atmosphere not through darkened corridors, deformed and deranged killers, or sudden jolts of sound, but instead through a deliberate tour into a world that gradually morphs from the everyday to the hallucinogenic. The shots of a nervous girl as she gazes at one work of art after another, with the camera capturing them just so -- at the right angle or focused on one particular aspect of the painting -- along with a score that gradually morphs into a terrifying refrain all its own, allows the movie to thoroughly capture the audience's attention and bring them front-and-center into a paralyzing world formed from everyday places and objects that, thanks to the director's keen sense of terror, play both at once as one of filmdom's most seemingly innocuous yet horrific opening sequences.
While the story remains enthralling for the better part of the movie, it nevertheless grows a bit tedious once it moves past the initial (and altogether shocking) series of events and moves on to its suitably good conclusion. The Stendhal Syndrome retains its psychological underpinnings with several jolting doses of the macabre along the way, but it reaches a breaking point where it takes too long to get to where its going. Arguably, however, it's this part of the film that makes it what it is and solidifies the story, both the beginning and the end. Anna's chats with her therapist and discovery of new interests and people in her life that, superficially, seem to allow her to move past the series of traumatic experiences that have left what appears to be an indelible mark on her life yields results both calming and positively shocking. It's her noble yet seemingly impossible goal to rid herself of her memories -- both on the physical end of the spectrum as evidenced by her hairstyle that changes drastically twice throughout the movie and on a deeper emotional level that sees her confront several of her fears head-on -- that drives the film to its surprise conclusion. Despite this material that does tend to drag, it serves an important purpose that, in the end, makes The Stendhal Syndrome something of a masterpiece in the realm of deeply-rooted and wholly unforgiving psychological trauma and terror and a trademark Dario Argento film.
The Stendhal Syndrome Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Stendhal Syndrome debuts on Blu-ray with a 1080p transfer alongside a 1.66:1-framed aspect ratio, which preserves the film's original presentation and places small, vertical black bars on either side of the image when projected on a standard 1.78:1 display. With that said, the transfer looks positively stunning. The Stendhal Syndrome features a thick layer of grain that, again, preserves the filmmaker's intended vision and has the added benefit of lending to the picture a dazzling film-like look and feel. Colors throughout are spot-on; neither overly bright nor in the least faded, the transfer simply offers a good, stable palette that does well to reproduce an entire spectrum of colors, from bright blue to blood red. Detail is wonderful, too. The film opens inside a museum and the camera lingers on several works of art. The 1080p transfer reveals plenty of fine lines, cracks, creases, wrinkles, and other signs of general wear and tear on the works, and again, they each retain a nice color balance. Detail throughout the remainder of the film looks great, too; the Italian brick-laden streets, building façades, clothing, and other assorted odds and ends all take on a fine level of detail, and both up-close and distant objects retain a nice bit of sharpness and clarity. Plagued by neither poor blacks nor faulty flesh tones, The Stendhal Syndrome is a marvel to behold on Blu-ray.
The Stendhal Syndrome Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Stendhal Syndrome features two lossless soundtracks, both in English and one each of the DTS-HD MA 7.1 and Dolby TrueHD 7.1 varieties; an Italian-language track is available via a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 EX offering. Though the film was screened in its entirety utilizing the DTS track, random back-to-back samplings yielded no discernible differences in quality between the two lossless mixes. The DTS track delivers a nice, spacious, satisfying listen throughout. During the film's open inside the museum, it offers footsteps and patron chatter spread nicely and cleanly across the front half of the soundstage. The music that accompanies it plays with a crispness -- particularly in the highs -- that makes for a compelling and, eventually, altogether haunting opening scene. All throughout the film, in fact, whispers and other varied sound effects pour forth from the front half of the soundstage to chilling effect as Anna experiences the Stendhal Syndrome; there's not much in the way of an obvious rear channel presence during such scenes, though the surround speakers do feature some nice discrete effects later in the film. Though even the film's more action-packed scenes -- featuring several gun shots -- don't boast all that much in the way of ear-shattering volume or absolute realism, there's still a nice bit of clarity to the entire proceedings that makes the lossless soundtracks superior to the lossy mixes. Also featuring sound dialogue reproduction, The Stendhal Syndrome makes for a very good, though not altogether compelling, audio experience.
The Stendhal Syndrome Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Stendhal Syndrome arrives on Blu-ray with several extras. Director: Dario Argento (480p, 20:02) features the director recalling how he became aware of the Stendhal Syndrome via an Italian-paper book review, his fascination with the psychology behind the syndrome, and how it morphed into a film with him behind the camera and his daughter in the lead role in front of it. The piece is in Italian with English subtitles. Inspiration: Psychological Consultant Graziella Magherini (480p, 20:39) features an extensive Italian-language interview with the author of the book The Stendhal Syndrome that inspired the film, provided with English subtitles. Special Effects: Sergio Stivaletti (480p, 15:47) takes viewers behind-the-scenes of some of the film's effects shots, again in Italian with English subtitles. Assistant Director: Luigi Cozzi (480p, 21:51) is another Italian-language-with-English-subtitles piece that features the assistant director recalling his relationship with Director Dario Argento and his participation on The Stendhal Syndrome. Also included is Production Designer: Massimo Antonello Geleng (480p, 22:40), another Italian-language interview piece that takes a closer look at the shooting locations, sets, and props that are found throughout the film. English subtitles are once again provided. Rounding out this collection of extras is the film's theatrical trailer (480p, 1:03).
The Stendhal Syndrome Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Delivering a steady diet of frightening psychological terror alongside a healthy but not overdone dose of blood, The Stendhal Syndrome represents vintage Argento. Taking its rightful place alongside the Italian maestro's best films, including The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, Opera, and Suspiria, The Stendhal Syndrome captures the true meaning of terror in virtually every frame, the film playing as something of a macabre journey into a haunted mind that cannot escape the physical tortures wrought by a sick and twisted world. Once again, Blue Underground has released a top-notch Blu-ray presentation. Featuring a stellar 1080p transfer, a good lossless soundtrack, and a nice selection of bonus materials, The Stendhal Syndrome earns a recommendation for mature audiences prepared to enter the frightening world of Detective Anna Manni.
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The Stendhal Syndrome Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Blue Underground Dates The Stendhal Syndrome - July 29, 2008
Blue Underground has revealed that they will bring 'The Stendhal Syndrome' to Blu-ray on November 18th. As earlier revealed, Blue Underground titles will come on BD-50s with 1080p video and lossless audio. No supplemental features have been announced at this time, ...
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