28 April 2004 | bronty
Classy homage to Hitchcock
I remember being entirely taken with this film, seeing it several times when it was originally in theaters, way back in '82. Its creator, Robert Benton, freely admitted at the time that he intended this to be an homage to Hitchcock, and he's largely succeeded, right down to the cool, mysterious blonde female with a troubled past and the detective who is drawn to her, and the balletic, deliberate pacing that accentuates the suspense and tension, almost to a fault. Unlike Hitchcock, this film is strictly serious business, with nary a moment of lightness, which, alas, means something less than 'fun'. Hitchcock ALWAYS utilized humor, no matter how dark it may have been, recognizing that it, too, can actually heighten the suspense by putting people off their guard. This film would be richer for that sense but still it remains a good, solid mystery. As I've said, the story is pure Hitchcock: a murder takes place and a cool, mysterious blonde (Streep) may be the prime suspect, something that draws New York City psychologist (and amateur sleuth) Scheider towards her. One comment here said, "They don't make 'em classy like this anymore" and he couldn't be more right: from the restrained, low-key performance of Streep (accent-free but looking perhaps more beautiful here than in any other film she's done; she nearly resembles those women in a Dutch Renaissance painting), balancing the "livelier" performance of Scheider, to the lovely muted blues, browns, greys and blacks of its cinematography. There are a fair number of jolts and a satisfactory wrap-up, too. If there is any one fault with the film, it is, as one user has already commented, how slight the script is - it's nearly a puff of smoke! Another asked if we really needed ANOTHER homage to Hitchcock since De Palma's been doing it for years; however, one look at De Palma's films and THIS film and the difference is night and day: De Palma's films, which could be considered almost a Hyper-Hitchcock, are almost TOO jokey and slavish to its directors flights of fancy, while Benton's film exhibits the cool reserve, almost detachment, of its sophisticated New York settings. Hitchcock was THE undisputed master of thrillers and remains so to this day; it's wonderful to see other, modern directors try their hand at the lost art of the classy thriller/mystery. "Still of the Night" is definitely worth discovering, no matter its minor faults.