Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Stendhal Syndrome

Considering how revered a filmmaker Dario Argento is, it’s a little surprising that his films after the 80s have gotten such poor DVD treatments. This film, for instance, until last month was only available in a heavily edited, full-screen version. I’d say that such a thing would completely butcher the film, and if we were talking about most of his films from the 70s and 80s, that would be true. However, having now seen this film uncut and widescreen, as it had been intended, I’d have to say that nobody really butchered this film but the filmmakers themselves.

It’s not really a terrible film, to be honest, but it does commit the crime of being a fairly dull film. It’s a good two hours long, and frankly would have been a good deal better if Argento had been able to restrain himself and cut a good quarter of that off. The plot is surprisingly linear for one of his films, and concerns a cop played by his daughter Asia that is trying to track down a serial rapist/killer only to get caught up in his madness. Dario Argento is known for his creepiness and violent bloodbaths, and both are certainly present in this film, the latter from a number of murders in the grand giallo tradition, and the former in how he doesn’t shy away from filming his own daughter being raped twice. The film also has an interesting second half, as after dispatching the killer so thoroughly that even Jason or Michael would have needed a sequel to bounce back, she begins instead to be menaced by…well, I won’t reveal it, though it won’t be hard to figure out while watching.

Here’s the problem, though. There are some great, really effective scenes in this movie, but they are surrounded by a greater amount of dull, plodding scenes that do nothing but grind the film to a halt. It makes the film extremely schizophrenic and, while certainly not terrible, is the second weakest of Argento’s films I’ve yet seen. For the record, his version of Phantom of the Opera, which was his follow-up to this, was his worst film by far. Clearly the mid-to-late 90s were not a good time for him.

Rating: **

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