The Stendhal Syndrome

Stendhal Syndrome is the clinical term for dizziness in the presence of great art. What’s the clinical term for wanting to see as many Italian movies as possible while you’re in LA and the Italian cultural institutes are colluding to throw a free film festival at Chinese 6, the multiple-birth offspring of the venerable Grauman’s Chinese on Hollywood Boulevard, enwrapt now in the mercenary coils of the vulgar-fun Hollywood & Highland urban mall?

I was due to leave LA with the light of dawn but was tempted to stick around for a free screening of Dario Argento‘s Stendhal Syndrome (1996) Tuesday morning at 10, although it meant I’d leave town no sooner than noon and would have to drive like the wind to make the first session of the writing workshop I’d signed up for in San Francisco that evening. Which way did my bohemian aesthetic duty lie? Sucking up product or trying to bang out some of my own?

Maybe I was starved for Italian film. Surely I am prey to an aesthetic syndrome. And being late to class isn’t the same as playing hooky. Anyway, I went. I saw. I enjoyed.

And then, in the car, past the Grapevine, I got a call from the organizer of the workshop saying it’d been postponed a week. For a moment I was annoyed, because maybe I could’ve squeezed in another Italian film, but then I was grateful, because I was on my way home, having survived an Argento movie.

The trailer below has been edited for the U.S. and therefore makes the movie look simply gruesome. Actually, this story about a young woman who faints in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence like the French writer Stendhal before her, but unlike him becomes the prey of a stalker-rapist-murderer, is a wonderfully intricate, dreamy, sexy, dangerous, subtle, blatant, compelling, intriguing suspense thriller with perplexing psychological elements and gorgeous visual effects.

Los Angeles Italia Festival, February 19-25, free films at Chinese 6, Hollywood & Highland, Los Angeles.

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