out of 4
All-Reviews.com Movie/Video Review
Close Encounters Of The Third Kind
Review by Walter Frith
No Rating Supplied
By 1977 director Steven Spielberg had already established himself as a world
class filmmaker with 'Jaws' in 1975 and his big screen debut in 1974 entitled
'The Sugarland Express'. While the former was obviously the more popular,
many of Spielberg's fans also recall an ingenious television movie he did in
1971 entitled 'Duel' which is a cult favourite among many film fanatics,
myself included. Born in Cincinnatit, Ohio in 1947, Spielberg achieved
greatness in the art of filmmaking before he was thirty years old.
Undoubtedly the greatest creative mind working in film in the last twenty
five years, Spielberg's films invoke debate everytime someone asks "What is
his masterpiece?" Is it 'E.T., The Extra-Terrestrial' (1982)? This was a
gentle and loving film about the child in all of us and a moving, simplistic
fantasy with religious implications done in a most tolerable fashion. Is it
'Schindler's List' (1993)? This harrowing story about the holocaust and one
of the most original looking and important film of the twentieth century was
the film that earned Spielberg recognition among his peers with seven Academy
Awards including Best Picture and Best Director for Spielberg himself. I
suspect that if you ask Spielberg what the crowning achievement in his career
is, he will vote for this one and rightfully so.
But what about 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' (1977)? It too is a
subject for debate when considering what exactly is Spielberg's masterpiece.
Written as well as directed by Spielberg himself, the film was a creative
odyssey which was released the same year as the phenomenal 'Star Wars' and
the strength of 'Close Encounters' along with most films that year was
diminished quite a bit by George Lucas' vision of other worlds aside from our
own. Like Stanley Kubrick's '2001: A Space Odyssey' (1968), 'Close
Encounters' was a motion picture well ahead of its time. Also like '2001',
'Close Encounters' failed to secure a Best Picture nomination but Spielberg
like Kubrick for '2001', respectively, was nominated as Best Director. The
creative culture lessons of the 1950's showed beings from another planet as
mostly hostile towards Earth with 'War of the Worlds' (1953) and 'Invasion of
the Body Snatchers' (1956). These films acted as metaphors for communism as
the cold war reached its peak in the 1950's. Even 'The Day the Earth Stood
Still' (1951) has a classic presence in motion picture history as it serves
as a message for peace among Earthlings with drastic consequences from other
worlds if that cannot be attained.
It has been reported that like 'Star Wars' and the recently released twenty
fifth anniversary edition of 'The Godfather' (1972) that 'Close Encounters'
will get a release sometime later this year for its twentieth anniversary.
It was a huge box office success for its time and will undoubtedly do well
again as its closest ally (television's 'The X-Files') will serve as an
unintentional promoter because its subject matter is obviously a parallel to
'Close Encounters' but the television series takes it one step further by
implying government conspiracies and colonies of aliens living among the
people of Earth. 'The X-Files' is definitely about having a close encounter
with aliens and while there is no direct connection between it and 'Close
Encounters', they are distant cousins whether they want to admit it or not.
Richard Dreyfuss stars in 'Close Encounters' as a working man from Indiana
who is confronted on a dark road one evening by an alien space ship which
causes his vehicle to disrupt in many different ways and as the film develops
Dreyfuss becomes obsessed with meaning of his encounter and becomes involved
with a single mother (Melinda Dillon) who has lost her little boy to an alien
abduction. Throughout the course of the film there is a constant theme of
preparation for an alien visit as two men (Bob Balaban and the late Francois
Truffaut) supposedly two scientists with government connections, travel to
distant places like Mexico and India to follow up with people who have had an
alien encounter of some sort. There is the development of language and
communication as hand signals and musical riffs are used to make contact with
the the extra-terrestrials who would surface in the film's hypnotic climax
set at Devil's Tower in Wyoming.
With eight Oscar nominations and one win for the searing cinematography by
veteran cameraman Vilmos Zsigmond as well as being voted a special award for
Sound Effects Editing, 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' is definitely one
of Spielberg's finest films and is one of the most original movies dealing
with the concept of determining what exactly this man's masterpiece is. The
Copyright © 1997 Walter Frith
Buy movie posters!