This review contains so many spoilers, reading it before you've seen the actual film will almost certainly ruin it for you. So - like - if you ain't, don't. I decided to view, and write a review, of this film because I've been at war with it for some time. Definately not one of my favorite Argento films, I wanted to figure out what I was missing. Along with that, I bought yet another (third!) DVD of it. I cover this in the review. Finally, there's a cheap R2 disc that's worth getting (the R1 is horrid). So anyway - I wanted to watch this film afresh, and to note my thoughts. There's a version with pretty pictures at this place here. ------------------------------------------------------------------- It’s perhaps not surprising that The Stendhal Syndrome wasn’t fully appreciated by Dario Argento's core audience. Argento has a reputation for violent films, often based in fantastical settings: Witches Covens, Opera Theatres, Baroque Hotels. When Argento wasn’t indulging his taste for the gothic he fell back to working within the confines - if it's reasonable to suggest they have confines - of the Giallo. So when Stendhal Syndrome came along, mixing both, but being neither, it was bound to cause some surprise. Just what is the Stendhal Syndrome? Is it a horror movie? Is it a Giallo? What are we to make of its three part structure? What is the role of the murderer in a film that makes no effort at all at hiding his identity? Along with these questions we ought to examine the status of this film as we consider that Argento often has to fight off claims of misogyny. This film has often been cited as a perfect example of Argento’s hatred, and explicitly nasty, violence against women. Perhaps it’s inevitable that these claims would be made when you consider he’s directing his own daughter in some brutal rape sequences – yes, more than one. First viewings of the film can be key. Some has dismissed it as plain hateful after a single viewing, while others – mainly hardcore Argento fans – have managed to build bridges across the most problematic sequences and find something of interest here. Repeated viewings, although probably abhorrent to those that found it so disturbing first time around, reveals an intelligent film with a lot to say about women as victims, and the transference of violence. If you’ve seen this movie on DVD, then you should keep in mind that the version of the DVD you have can make a huge difference in how you might feel about the film. In the US, this movie was picked up by Troma, and released on a horrid disc. The visual splendour of the film is lost with a muddy and turgid print. In the UK a cropped DVD was released, with more than two minutes of cuts. The best version is probably the disc released in Italy by Medusa, a two disc set. However, for those without deep pockets, confusingly, Arrow in R2 re-released a good looking – and fully uncut print – a couple years ago. I have the misfortune of owning the Troma disc, the cropped UK disc, and now the later Arrow release. Frankly, the latter is the only one worth the shelf space. If you’ve only seen this film in the other prints, then really you’ve not seen it at all. It really does make a huge difference to be able to enjoy the details of this film. After all, looking at fine works of art through sun glasses really does obscure things. Getting that out of the way, we can get back to the film itself. We know Dario is in a playful mood from the opening sequence of the film. He uses the camera to disorient us. Anna (Asia Argento) is making her way to an art gallery. She’s clearly not a casual tourist at this point, barging into people, and focusing on some distant intent as she pushes by the tourists on the street. Argento changes the focus of the camera – first we see long shots of Anna moving through the crowds, then we switch to a first person view, then back to a long shot, before having the camera moved to the inside of a cab that is driving at speed passed storefronts. This constant shift of perspective doesn’t allow us to settle down, to focus of Anna. In this initial sequence we are assaulted with religious and artistic iconography. Sculptures line the street, priests move left and right around the camera, and we see a mixed race wedding taking place. We are treated to this festival of sights by a camera placed at eye-level for Anna, watching as she stares upward at the looming sculptures. Her place amongst all this action is clearly that of “other”. Her movements are erratic, nervous, and already disconnected.