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The Stendhal Syndrome

     It takes a stretch to really praise the horror films of Italy's Dario Argento, for even the best of them such as Suspiria(1977) are, though visually delectable, ultimately blood-clogged claptrap. The usual slit-throat murders run all through The Stendhal Syndrome (1996), but this time there's also a fairly gripping story, about a young female policewoman, Anna Manni (Asia Argento, Dario's voluptuous, endlessly watchable daughter), who becomes herself the victim of the serial rapist-killer she is chasing across Italy. When he catches her and rapes her a second time, Anna escapes, shoots him, kicks the shit out of him, and drops him down a waterfall. But soon, homicides start up again. Is the rapist immortal? There's a double twist ending which is not bad at all, and, Hitchcock style, Argento sets several of his scariest moments in famous public places such as the Uffizi Gallery. The movie title? The famous French writer swooned and almost fainted seeing Florentine art in the early 19th century: hence, the Stendhal Syndrome for Anna tumbling to the ground soon after viewing a Carravagio.

GERALD PEARY
(October, 2000)

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