The Stendhal Syndrome (1996)

The Stendhal Syndrome - Still 0

LA SINDROME DI STENDHAL

Asia Argento, Thomas Kretschmann, Marco Leonardi, Luigi Diberti, Paolo Bonacelli, John Quentin .. / Based on the novel by  Graziella Magherini  /  Screenplay  Dario Argento  /  Music   Ennio Morricone  /  Cinematography  Giuseppe Rotunno  /  Editor  Angelo Nicolini  /  Produced & Directed by  Dario Argento

.

Hyperkulturemia / Florence or Stendhal syndrome: “.. symptoms that feature disorientation, panic, heart palpitations, loss of identity, fear and dizziness, and beset certain foreign tourists in cities like Florence and Venice, where centuries of intensely vivid art and architecture overwhelm them and destabilize both the grounded space on which they stand, and their temporal mooring in the present.. more vertiginous than uncanny, more existentially dangerous than exotically strange, a ‘fugue state’.. a flight from or loss of the awareness of one’s own identity (from the) emotional stress.”

Carnal Thoughts: Embodiment and Moving Image Culture’ by Vivian Sobchack

.

 Dario Argento is always closest at home when he has a decent psychological disorder to hang his hat upon. ‘The Stendhal Syndrome’ manages to bewitch, bother and bewilder in equal fashion. What most critics and audiences ave hitherto agreed upon is that the first 20 minutes or so are truly astonishing, but that it all starts to come apart at the seams from then on in. This isn’t quite true though, since there’s most definitely plenty more to discover and to be impressed by during that other hour, but it’s rather that Argento doesn’t make it an easy ride. With a plot that involves sadistic rape sequences at it’s core,  a series of truly baffling plot twists, and the need for some seriously outlandish suspensions of disbelief. It takes an audience familiar with the dreamlike qualities of Giallo cinema, European arcane fairytales, and the dark eccentricities of Argento’s visions to cope and stick with it to the end. Ultimately it’s a very rewarding cinematic experinece, though a decidedly disconcerting one.

The Stendhal Syndrome - Still 1

“On leaving the Santa Croce church, I felt a pulsating in my heart. 
Life was draining out of me, while I walked fearing to fall.”

-Marie-Henri Beyle (Stendhal)-

The Stendhal Syndrome - Still 2

On the surface Argento’s films appear to be about fairly conventional horror subjects, populated with serial killers, witches, supernatural forces and the demonic.. but it’s mostly window-dressing we come to realize, a construct to allow for explorations of the psyche and of the Succubus erotic.. haunting the characters sexualised emotions, and  leading the audience into dark recesses. The conceptual subtext then, is resolutely dominant throughout, leaving the plot secondary to visual and emotive concerns. It must be said that over the years Argento’s plots have increasingly become sketchier, still dutifully following the lurid, exploitative traditions of the Giallo genre, but losing much of the sense of pace necessary to create an entertaining journey.. a certain pitfall to this particular dreamlike and hypnotically visceral style of cinema.

The Stendhal Syndrome - Still 3

To some extent ‘Stendhal’ stands as one of the last of Argento’s films to entirely please his followers. In recent years his output has either fallen short of the mark, or else drifted off of course entirely. His latest, an adaptation of Dracula sank unceremoniously without a trace, in the straight to video quagmire.

The Stendhal Syndrome - Still 4

Over the years Argento himself has frequently sighted Hitchcock as his principal source of inspiration, and even explored the subject in his 2005 film ‘Ti Piace Hitchcock?’ (Do you like Hitchcock?) but perhaps Brian DePalma is a more fruitful comparison to make in terms of Neo-noir style and a preoccupation with the more lurid imagery of the Femme Fatale. From the German Expressionistic beginnings of Pabst’s Lulu (Pandora’s Box), to the eroticism of the Italian Giallo Pulps, European cinema has always been less restricted by censure than Hollywood, free to ‘play’ and to explore with a giddy fervour. Attracting American filmmakers, influencing and inspiring in equal measure.. but also scaring off Hollywood investors who would sooner back familiar, tried and tested material, than go out on a limb with something *cough* ‘artistic’.

Untitled-3

‘The feeling is so profound, that it borders on
pity. All this speaks clearly to my soul.’

The Stendhal Syndrome - Still 7

“Horror is like a serpent; always shedding its skin, always changing. And it will always come back. It can’t be hidden away like the guilty secrets we try to keep in our subconscious.” (Dario Argento)

Interstingly DePalma himself has found himself moving towards European productions, toying with the continental in ‘Femme Fatale’, and excelling with his much improved remake of Alain Corneau’s film ‘Crime d’amour’ as ‘Passion’, starring  Noomi Rapace (‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ etc) , Rachel McAdams (Midnight in Paris’) and Karoline Herfurth (‘Perfume’) in three roles that would make Argento and Hitchcock clap with glee.

 

La sindrome di Stendhal (1996) #2

DREAM-LIKE TV INFLUENCE

Guinness Tv advert : ‘Get the picture’ with Rutger Hauer (1991)

POSTER ART

La sindrome di Stendhal (1996) Poster Art #2 La sindrome di Stendhal (1996) Poster Art

.

DARIO ARGENTO FILMOGRAPHY

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970)
Il gatto a nove code / Cat o’ Nine Tails (1971)
4 mosche di velluto grigio / Four flies on grey velvet (1971)
Le cinque giornate / The Five Days (1973)
Profondo Rosso / Deep Red (1975)
Suspiria (1977)
Inferno (1980)
Tenebrae (1982)
Phenomena (1985)
Opera (1987)
Trauma (1993)
The Stendhal Syndrome (1996)
The Phantom of the Opera (1998)
Non ho sonno / Sleepless (2001)
Il cartaio / The Card Player (2004)
La terza madre / Mother of Tears (2007)
Giallo (2009)
Dracula 3D (2012)

——–

ASIA ARGENTO   b. 20th Sept. 1975 (Rome, Italy)


 

Asia Argento

The White Bus (1967)

DONATE

THE WHITE BUS (1967)

RED, WHITE, ZERO: THE WHITE BUS

Patricia Healey, Arthur Lowe, Stephen Moore, John Sharp, Julie Perry, Anthony Hopkins, Victor Henry, Fanny Carby, John Savident, Malcolm Taylor, Allan O’Keefe, Jeanne Watts, Eddie King, Barry Evans, Penny Ryder /  From the short story by  Shelagh Delaney  /  Editor  Kevin Brownlow  /  Music Score  Misha Donat  / Cinematography  Miroslav Ondricek  /  Producer & Director  Lindsay Anderson 

~

 Emerging from the Trümmerfilm rubble of a still scarred postwar British North, wanders Patricia Healey, a suicidal brunette with angelic, ethereal eyes deeper than a well. More a ghost, than a fully fledged character, she radiates a sense of disconnection, fascinated by those around her, cut from the same cloth, yet at a passive distance. Her purpose is to represents us, both as moving camera, and the objective gaze of the viewer, allowing us to study our own world with anonymity.

The White Bus (1967) Still i

To some extent this wandering angel is familiar, from both the Beatnik culture of the day, and the wandering, somnambulist  characters of French New Wave Cinema (Jeanne Moreau’s midnight stroll in ‘Ascenseur pour l’Echafaud’, and in ‘Cléo de 5 à 7’, Corinne Marchand’s  endless lilting wander, from Parisian Doctor’s office, to boutique, to cafe). Here though, we have some degree of order, travelling the city with a Civic Bus Tour, pointing out what we should be interested in,  establishing some degree of direction upon our meandering nomad, providing a beginning, a middle and a clear end to proceedings. The Documentary maker as tour guide.

The White Bus (1967) Still zzz

What does predominate within the heart of ‘The White Bus’, is this sense of the secret insider.. since both the Director Lindsay Anderson, (born in British India), and the author Shelagh Delaney, (born in Lancashire, though of distinctly Irish heritage), express a love and a sense of belonging to English culture and the landscape, but perhaps unintentionally bring an unbiased objectivity too. Along with the film’s author and Director, the sense of a fresh eye, is further given by it’s Czech Cinematographer, Miroslav Ondricek, adding elements of the Czech New Wave to his angles and treatment of the cityscapes.. bringing a sense of ethereal Prague, to the British landscape. Ondricek eventually answered the call to Hollywood, and went on to shine ever brighter behind the camera on such notable pieces as ‘The World According to Garp’, ‘Silkwood’, and ‘Amadeus’.

The White Bus (1967) Still e

Lindsay Anderson initially hit his stride with some remarkably poignant Public Service style ‘kitchen sink’ documentaries made during the 1940’s & 50’s, centering his keen focus upon the ordinary inhabitants of schools and society’s working institutions.. Covent Garden Market.. Dreamland’s amusements.. a school for the deaf.. an anti-nuclear march.. all served up in a thought provoking and accessible form. From here, Anderson advanced to full length films, though continuing to concentrate on familiar ground. With ‘This Sporting Life’, the violence of a rugby player boils over into life beyond the confines of the field.. and in the iconic ‘If..’, a Public School erupts into chaos, as the students murderously ‘take over the asylum’. ‘The White Bus’ is no less subversive a piece, but by keeping it’s central character mute for much of film, the audience is carried along for the ride with the same sense of disconnection as it’s protagonist. The result is one of fascination with society ‘from without’, neutral and scientific, rather than overtly critical. Both we, and our central character are but a ghost in the machine. Neither affecting, nor affected by the world, merely observing, or offering a bemused smile.

The White Bus (1967) Still a

‘The White Bus’ was originally intended to be released as part of a trilogy of films, collectively titled ‘Red White Zero’, each adapted from short stories by Shelagh Delaney (‘Sweetly sings the donkey’, published 1963), but neither subsequent film reached production. Delaney’s particular vision of a vibrant, cynical North characterized her literary style, and through her two screenplays for ‘A Taste of Honey’, and ‘Charlie Bubbles’, firmly established the North Country as a key locale in the British New Wave.

The White Bus (1967) Still n

It is quite tempting to believe that perhaps Lindsay Anderson had Delaney herself in mind when he selected actress Patricia Healey for the lead. There is a decided similarity in look and posture between the two women, and after the success of ‘A Taste of Honey’, Delaney was becoming a notable creative in the public eye. The long dark hair, solemn expression and soulful eyes match almost too well for coincidence.

The White Bus (1967) Still q

In addition, Delaney’s short story contains many personal elements, not only in superficial terms of location, schooling and general attitude, but autobiographically, since her father worked for some years during her childhood as a Bus Inspector, and the trip to a state school during the ‘The White Bus’, feels achingly personal. We write about what we know, of course, and Directors take more than mere words from a writer when they set images and ideas to screen, even more so when they share something of the same perspective.

The White Bus (1967) Still x

Shot primarily on moody, atmospheric b&w film, ‘The White Bus’ is peppered with short scenes of almost lurid Eastmancolor, which never fail to shock and surprise whenever they appear. Lindsay Anderson used the same effect in his later film ‘If…’, though in reverse, favouring mostly colour film, dropping in sporadic b&w scenes. It’s often assumed that the expensive nature of colour film was the determining factor, causing the majority of scenes in ‘The White Bus’ to be shot on b&w, where funds were unavailable, and limiting the colour filming in ‘If…’. It does seems far too deliberate a choice at times though, especially in ‘The White Bus’, where the use of colour appears more an avant-guarde motif. Fritz Lang faced similar concerns with his 1st Sound film, the ground breaking ‘M’, juxtaposing between Sound film and pure Silent scenes to keep under budget.. but he somehow made these cost cutting necessities part of the German Expressionist style, by focusing on the visuals for chase scenes, and saving his precious Sound film for close-ups. In neither ‘The White Bus’, nor ‘If…’, is there any clear reasoning behind colour or b&w selection, other than  artistic or random whim. The overall effect is bold and original, so I suppose the intention, or lack thereof, doesn’t really matter anyway.

The White Bus (1967) Still k

As the film progresses the inhabitants of this dream-like landscape seem to become less and less connected to reality, and the sense of documentary intent merges with that of surrealism, bringing to mind aspects of Dali’s ‘Un Chien Andalou’ (1929), and mysterious Maya Deren’s ‘Meshes in the Afternoon’ (1943). Different subjects for documentary are laid out before us, as the Bus Tour shifts from location to location, passing through State School, newly completed blocks of flats, the wheels of industry, anthropological glass cases of stuffed animals on display, and elaborate war reenactments over scrub land.

The White Bus (1967) Still y

At one point, in full glorious colour, we have elaborate tableau set out before us in park scenes, as we parade through reconstructions of famous paintings by Goya, Fragonard and Manet, later to be imitated rather beautifully by those clever Guinness adverts in the early 90’s, with a wry Rutger Hauer interrupting the classics.

The White Bus (1967) Still v

~

Ultimately the passengers themselves are reduced to mere dress dummies, as the dream of the Bus Tour loses solidity, and dissipates on the air, leaving only our protagonist to wander off once more. Eventually even she becomes a less and less noticed by those around her, a ghost sat in a chip shop at closing time, while chairs are stacked on tables around her. She and the audience must go home. Turn the lights off please.

The White Bus (1967) Still zzzzzzz

——————–

IF YOU LIKE ‘THE WHITE BUS’, YOU MAY ALSO LIKE.. 

Ascenseur pour l’échafaud  (1958) / À bout de souffle (1960) / A Taste of Honey (1961) / Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962) / Billy Liar (1963) / The Knack, and How To Get it (1965) / Morgan, A Suitable Case for Treatment (1966) / Alice in Wonderland (TV 1966) / Blow-Up! (1966) / Bedazzled (1967) / If… (1968) / The Bed Sitting Room (1969) 

The White Bus 1967     The White Bus 1967

———-

LINDSAY ANDERSON : SHORT FILMS

~

~

LINDSAY ANDERSON INTERVIEWS & DOCU.

~

~

Shelagh Delaney - Portrait

SHELAGH DELANEY (1938-2011)

~

A Taste of Honey (Pub. 1956)

The Lion in Love (Pub. 1960)

Sweetly Sings the Donkey (Pub. 1963)

The White Bus (Adapt. 1967)

Charlie Bubbles (Screenplay 1967)

Seven Faces of Woman (1974)

The House that Jack Build (TV 1977)

Find me First (TV 1981)

Dance with a Stranger (1985)

Three Days in August (1992)

~

~

Shelagh Delaney

———————————————————–