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Close Encounters Of The Third Kind

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Close Encounters Of The Third Kind

Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Francois Truffaut
Director: Steven Spielberg
Rated: PG
RunTime: 137 Minutes
Release Date: November 1977
Genres: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Classic

*Also starring: Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon, Cary Guffey, Bob Balaban

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 debate continues.....

Copyright 1997 Walter Frith

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