The Stendhal Syndrome

The Stendhal Syndrome ★★★

With my 2021 end of year catchup ahead of my list all set, it was time to move on the primary attraction of the movie watching month: Giallo January. I have another late period Argento queued up but first I decided to finally check this one out on Mubi, which was fairly well regarded for this section of his career.

Whether this is technically a giallo is debatable. There’s not really a mystery in the traditional sense, having more in common with American cat-and-mouse crime thrillers of the 90s, and few of the superficial tropes are here but the nature of the murders and the histrionic psychological component do fit in. Either way, it’s a notable step up from the other late period Argento I’ve seen so far that directly proceeded it, TRAUMA, in that this is a good movie. 

It suffers from early CGI special effects which have aged terribly but there are still a few great murder scenes despite this, particularly one early on that involves a human peep hole. Its violence is even grittier than your average Argento but the mania created with this darkness and the chaos of how the titular syndrome is depicted does give the film a hypnotic effect. It starts off pretty tense and then dies down about 2/3rds of the way in but never quite gets boring. Asia Argento’s performance is good, even if she is very obviously 20 years old and therefore doesn’t selling being some veteran police detective at all. The twist isn’t hard to guess and the movie just sort of ends. 

So all in all, no one’s going to confuse this for one of Argento’s classic but most will find it at least a good watch. There’s also a nice score by Ennio Morricone and very lush cinematography from Giuseppe Rotunno in one of his last films. This is far from an essential for those just discovering the Italian Master but for Argento fans, this is worth knocking off your watchlist eventually.