• Stendhal Syndrome, The



    Stendhal Syndrome, The
    Released by: Blue Underground
    Released on: July 25th, 2017.
    Director: Dario Argento
    Cast: Asia Argento, Thomas Kretschmann, Marco Leonardi, Luigi Diberti, Paolo Bonacelli
    Year: 1995
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    The Movie:

    After finishing up Trauma and his half of Two Evil Eyes, Dario Argento returned to his native Italy to shoot The Stendhal Syndrome, once again starring his daughter (and future Maxim Magazine ‘Sexiest Woman Alive’) Asia Argento. This was a few years before she’d become popular in North America for her starring role alongside Vin Diesel in XXX.

    The film follows a young female detective named Anna Marin (Asia Argento) who works primarily on rape cases. She’s been trailing a serial rapist for some time now and when she winds up in Florence and finds out he may be in town, she sets up a meeting with an informant. The hope is that she’ll get the information she needs to stop the fiend. The pair meets at an art gallery but upon entering the building, Anna becomes overwhelmed by the paintings. Soon they being to swirl around her and cause her to fall down and knock her head, a result of the titular condition from which she suffers.

    When Anna wakes up, she is completely unaware of where she is or how she got there. As such, she’s understandably not so trusting of the man named Alfredo (Thomas Kretschmann) who appears to be trying to help her. She heads back to her hotel but later that night runs into Alfredo again. It’s then that she realizes he is the rapist she’s been pursuing for some time now. He turns his sights on her and brutally rapes her but she manages to escape before he can kill her. With the symptoms of the Stendhal Syndrome kicking in and the emotional, physical and mental pain Alfredo has inflicted on her, Anna has to track him down and stop him from doing it again before he finds her and silences her permanently.

    Based around a unique but completely real psychosomatic condition (named after a French author) which causes dizziness or fainting when those afflicted with it are exposed to an overwhelming amount of art, The Stendhal Syndrome is one of Dario Argento’s more psychologically layered films. The film deals not only with what we see happen literally and chronologically on the screen but it also delves into Anna’s own guilt and the psychological ramifications of her experiences at the hands of Alfredo. The controversial rape scene, a disturbing moment by its very nature (made even more unsettling when you consider that the director has cast his own flesh and blood to play the victim), sees Asia handle the role particularly well. She’s believably distraught during and after the traumatic event and her performance is good enough to ensure that we really do feel for her. She is actually very believable in the part, even if she looks a little too young to be cast as a police detective.

    The pacing of the film is a little different than most pictures but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. By placing the nastiest set piece in the middle of the movie Argento leaves us wondering if he’s going to try and top it or not by the end of the film. It’s actually a rather clever way to create suspense and it works in the movie’s favor even if those hoping for a gore-soaked conclusion might be left disappointed. Adding to the tone of the movie considerably is the original score from Ennio Morricone. While Morricone had scored Argento’s first three giallos (Cat O’ Nine Tails, Four Flies On Grey Velvet and The Bird With The Crystal Plumage), at this point in their respective careers the pair had not worked together since the early seventies. Morricone’s compositions really do a fantastic job of making the scenes where Anna’s disorder kicks in all the more hallucinatory. They also play a large part in the success of the more tense murder set pieces and suspense sequences in the picture. The movie also does a really good job of making us think about the relationship between a work of art and someone attempting to discern it, the film itself working on much the same level as the paintings which envelope and ultimately confuse Anna so much.

    With all of that said, the picture isn’t perfect, particularly in its English version. The dubbing is goofy and not all of the translations come across very well. Thankfully Italian language options are included on this new release. As mentioned, Asia’s not a bad actress at all but she definitely looks too young for the lead role and this does hamper things a tad. A couple of head scratching logic gaps don’t help things much either and the CGI used for a few scenes, at the time very much in its infancy as a viable medium, haven’t aged well.

    Despite those flaws, however, The Stendhal Syndrome gets enough right that it’s very definitely worth a look. The premise itself is an interesting one and the script does a pretty good job of exploiting the unique condition that the film is named after. Argento’s direction is slick and the cinematography, as dark as it is, really is quite effective. Add to that a couple of memorable set pieces and some gorgeous location shooting and it’s easy to see how the pluses certainly outweigh the minuses. When all of this adds up, it makes this film a great choice for horror fans who don’t mind thinking outside the box.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Blue Underground released the film on Blu-ray back in 2008, offering a substantial upgrade over past DVD editions but with a transfer that was fairly riddled with scanner noise. This 2017 edition, presented in 1.85.1 widescreen in AVC encoded 1080p high definition, is taken from a “new 2K restoration from the original camera negative” and thankfully this time around, the scanner noise is gone. Having said that, there are some unfortunate compression artifacts noticeable throughout (the ones you see in the screen caps below are not the result of converting the screen caps to jpeg format). Is this a deal breaker? For most people, probably not but those with larger sets might be irritated by it. Aside from that, the image is solid. Colors are nicely reproduced and there’s good detail and clarity present throughout. The picture is very clean, showing no real print damage at all while still maintaining a natural amount of film grain. If any noise reduction was applied here it was light, so skin looks like skin and we get good detail and texture. Note that past editions have been framed at 1.66.1 widescreen. The 1.85.1 framing actually opens things up a bit more on the sides and improves some of the compositions by doing so.

    English language audio options are provided in DTS-HD 7.1, Dolby Digital EX 5.1, DTS-HD 2.0 Stereo as well as Italian languages in the same three formats. Removable subtitles are available in English (translating the Italian Audio), English SDH (which translate the English dub), French and Spanish. The Dolby Digital mixes seem to be carried over from the DVD release from years back, making them fairly unnecessary unless you lack the hardware to decode the DTS-HD options. As to the quality of the lossless options, the 7.1 tracks spread around the score and effects placement nicely but it’s the stereo track here that’s the real winner. It sounds very full and quite strong with properly balanced levels and clear, concise sounding dialogue. Those who want the English dub are obviously free to enjoy, but the film really does play much better in its original Italian language.

    The extras on this release are an impressive mix of older and new, starting with an exclusive audio commentary from Troy Howarth, author of So Deadly, So Perverse. Howarth’s enthusiasm for the film’s director comes through here, infectiously so at times, as he delivers an amiable mix of critical analysis and trivia relating to the film’s history. He does a nice job of putting the picture into context alongside some of Argento’s other pictures while also offering up some information on the book that inspired the film, the effects featured in the picture, details of the various performances that the picture contains, Morricone’s unusual score and a lot more.

    From there, we move on to three new featurettes, starting with Three Shades Of Asia, a twenty minute long interview with the film’s leading lady, Asia Argento. She looks back on this one pretty fondly, noting that out of all the collaborations she and her father have worked on together, this is her favorite. She also shares some memories about what it was like on set, working with Thomas Kretschmann, how she wound up getting the lead in the picture after the decision to shoot it in the United States fell through and a fair bit more. Up next is Prisoner Of Art, a fourteen minute interview with co-writer Franco Ferrini. He speaks about where he took his inspiration from for the script, his thoughts on Argento’s directing of the film, his original plans for the picture’s ending and a few other related subjects. The third and final new interview is a ten minute piece entitled Sharp As A Razor and it gets special makeup artist Franco Casagni in front of the camera for a talk about the film’s mix of practical and digital effects, some of the people he worked with behind the scenes and his thoughts on what it was like to work with a director of Argento’s caliber and status.

    Rounding out the extras on the first disc is the film’s original theatrical trailer, a still gallery, menus and chapter selection.

    On the second disc in this set, Blue Underground has carried over the extras from their past releases of the film, starting a series of interviews (each of which is conducted in Italian and includes English subtitles), the first of which, a twenty minute piece entitled The Director, focuses in on Dario Argento himself. In this piece, Argento discusses how at this point in his career it was important that he go back to making films in Italy and where this film lies in his filmography in terms of what it means to him and where many of the ideas for the film came from. Some interesting behind the scenes footage is included here, cut in amongst the newly shoot interview clips. The second interview, the twenty minute The Inspiration: Psychological Consultant, is an interview with Graziella Magherini, the psychiatrist who actually named the condition, who lends some truly interesting insight into studies that she’s conducted on the unique illness. She explains how it affects people and gives a brief history of the condition from a more scientific point of view than the feature does. Interview number three is entitled Special Effects and it’s an interesting fifteen minute long discussion with Sergio Stivaletti where he covers his working relationship with Dario Argento and talks about using CGI for the first time. There’s also some nice behind the scenes footage in this segment. Assistant Director spends twenty one minutes with the always amiable Luigi Cozzi where he discusses how he’s known Argento personally and professionally for well over three decades now and what it was like to work on this unique picture with one of horror’s most celebrated directors. The fifth and final interview on this disc, a twenty-two minute piece called, Production Designer, gets Massimo Antonello Geleng in front of the camera to discuss the very different visual style that Argento employed for this very dark film.

    As this is a combo pack release, Blue Underground also includes a DVD version of the movie in the set. Included inside the clear Blu-ray case that holds the three discs is a color insert booklet containing an essay on the film written by Michael Gingold. We also get some nice reversible sleeve art - a little thing, maybe, but still worth mentioning.

    The Final Word:

    The Stendhal Syndrome remains one of Dario Argento’s most interesting thrillers, a smart and unique picture that offers up a smart story, some gripping suspense and a very strong performance from Asia Argento. Blue Underground’s second Blu-ray not only carries over everything from their past edition, but it also improves on that previous release in terms of its presentation (even if those compression artifacts stand out) and throws in some interesting and enjoyable new extras features as well.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!





























    Comments 15 Comments
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      No dog in this race, but another site is reporting that the stereo track is a downmix of the 7.1 that's missing some audio cues.
    1. agent999's Avatar
      agent999 -
      Yes, Bill Lustig apparently went apeshit on HTF directed at Vincent Pereira over alleged missing dialogue. I have to say, the quality of BU's recent stuff has been variable, the Francos have been sandblasted and the Fu Manchus were upscales. I never buy a BU release until checking reviews these days. What on earth happened to this company, they used to be one of the best?
    1. Tuco's Avatar
      Tuco -
      Great review, thanks. I often do not see PQ problems that others do & am not especially au fait with technical terms, so what am I looking for in terms of compression artifacts on these screen grabs?
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Quote Originally Posted by Tuco View Post
      Great review, thanks. I often do not see PQ problems that others do & am not especially au fait with technical terms, so what am I looking for in terms of compression artifacts on these screen grabs?
      It's usually hard to tell from screengrabs, but in motion, it's usually, "blobbing", which is what I call it, anyway. It's often most noticeable on backgrounds that are mostly one solid colour. That's just one example of it, though. Cap 5 is a great example of compression, the whole frame is riddled with it.

      This is a decent article with pictures that shows some of the different issues that compression can cause.

      http://blog.biamp.com/understanding-...ion-artifacts/
    1. John Bernhard's Avatar
      John Bernhard -
      I am on the fence here, the tech issues annoy me. Reading that exchange between Bill Lusitg and Vincent P. was rather illuminating.
      Not too sure Lustig is 100% on top of his game here, if there is dialog missing its a serious issue.

      Worse than missed dialog is poor compression and encoding this far into the Blu ray era.

      I find myself not wanting to support Blue Underground these days.
    1. paul h.'s Avatar
      paul h. -
      I went looking for apeshit at HTF and couldn't find any.
    1. C.D. Workman's Avatar
      C.D. Workman -
      I believe it was deleted, Paul.
    1. agent999's Avatar
      agent999 -
      Quote Originally Posted by paul h. View Post
      I went looking for apeshit at HTF and couldn't find any.
      This is the quote from Bill Lustig. Met him randomly once in London, seemed like a nice guy. Of course, I didn't critique one of his releases!

      Vincent Pereira is an idiot. Firstly, the source of the STENDHAL 7.1/5.1 remixes were the English and Italian original Dolby Surround 2.0s coupled with the stereo M&E. This clown made the same comment years ago for the Anchor Bay SUSPIRIA. FACT, these films predate digital sound mixing. Each language is mixed separately so no 2 mixes of the same film are identical. I personally supervised the 2 remixes and can assure that we did not remove ANY dialogue present on both language tracks. Now, it is possible there's dialogue in the Italian not used in the English or vice versa. Regarding Vincent's "compression issue", I have no idea what he is looking at. I have seen the blu-ray numerous times and have not seen any compression problems nor have any reviewers including Robert Harris. Vincent is an arrogant fanboy who watches movies like the Kennedy Zepruder film - what a waste of time.

      William Lustig
    1. John Bernhard's Avatar
      John Bernhard -
      A bunch of it was saved here
      http://forum.blu-ray.com/showpost.ph...&postcount=293

      There is English dialog missing the the encode blows. Facts Lustig will not admit to ( or is unaware of ).
    1. paul h.'s Avatar
      paul h. -
      Ha. Thanks everybody!
    1. King-Wasp's Avatar
      King-Wasp -
      Hey, Bill, it's Zapruder, not Zepruder. Just sayin'.
    1. Lalala76's Avatar
      Lalala76 -
      Hey. Yet again too much is being made of the compression. I'm watching this as we speak and it is a HUGE improvement over the previous Blu-ray. I can't comment on the dialogue as I am watching with the Italian language track, and that's the way I will always watch the film. The release gets a big thumbs up from me. I'm getting really tired of constantly hearing negativity about releases on forums and social media.

      This is not a criticism of Ian's review as he is thorough and as honest as can be. Its more a reaction to armchair critics who just happen to jump on any reason to maul a release. I see it more and more nowadays.
    1. agent999's Avatar
      agent999 -
      I have the original BU release and I believe this audio issue/non issue (depending on your viewpoint) was on that too. The pq on that makes it almost unwatchable, but I'm not going to get the new version because I'm hoping for a cheaper UK version (it's one of Argento's better latter day efforts, but still middling in the grand scheme in my opinion). I do think many of these issues get blown out of proportion (as I'm sure many of us here did, I grew up watching shitty VHS bootlegs when most of this stuff was unavailable so anything's an improvement) but sometimes these issues distract me if really noticeable (the recent Italian Zombi release being an example. Still waiting for my bloody replacement disc. Also the Other Hell looked really blocky in places). I can understand Bill Lustig's anger because negative comments over things that most people won't notice can seriously impact his sales. However, I do think that the quality of the recent BU stuff that I've got has taken a turn for the worse. Not a good state off affairs when I prefer watching the French porno cut of 99 Women over the original version because it hasn't been de-grained.
    1. Tuco's Avatar
      Tuco -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mark Tolch View Post
      It's usually hard to tell from screengrabs, but in motion, it's usually, "blobbing", which is what I call it, anyway. It's often most noticeable on backgrounds that are mostly one solid colour. That's just one example of it, though. Cap 5 is a great example of compression, the whole frame is riddled with it.

      This is a decent article with pictures that shows some of the different issues that compression can cause.

      http://blog.biamp.com/understanding-...ion-artifacts/

      Thanks Mark
    1. Derrick King's Avatar
      Derrick King -
      In case someone doesn't read the forum, BU is fixing this and here is how you get a replacement disc
      STENDHAL SYNDROME BLU-RAY UPDATE:

      Recently, we were made aware of a minor compression issue and 2 bits of missing audio (English version only) on the new STENDHAL SYNDROME Blu-ray. We investigated and have now corrected the Blu-ray. We will be offering a replacement V2 disc for those with concerns about the aforementioned issues.

      If you purchased the new 3-DISC LIMITED EDITION and the blu-ray disc art does not have “V2” on it, you may request a replacement Blu-ray Disc by emailing us at StendhalBDreplacement@gmail.com. You MUST include the following information in your email to qualify for a replacement disc:
      · Your Name
      · Mailing address
      · Copy of receipt showing purchase of THE STENDHAL SYNDROME 3-Disc Limited Edition

      The V2 Blu-ray Discs will be available to mail out in approximately 4 weeks. We thank you for your continued support and patience!