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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 Brian Koller
3 stars out of 4

"Stars Wars" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" were both released in 1977, and were enormously successful films, both critically and commercially. This began a new era in Hollywood, in which special effects became much more important as a lure to bring customers to the theater.

The plot has aliens visiting the Earth with a fleet of enormous, glowing spaceships. Scientists learn how to communicate with the aliens through musical and mathematical codes. The U.S. Government, of course, launches a massive conspiracy, inventing a deadly nerve gas leak to force citizens away from the site of the alien visits.

Richard Dreyfuss is well cast as an average man who sees the flying saucers one evening, and soon loses his job, his sanity, and his wife (Teri Garr). Melinda Dillon is a mother of a young boy (played by wide-eyed and mute Cary Guffey) who is abducted by the aliens. Dreyfuss and Dillon are compelled to visit Devil's Peak, not knowing why, where they become part of the alien's landing ceremony.

Steven Spielberg wrote and directed "Close Encounters". As with his later film "E.T.", the aliens are benevolent, and the special effects are used to create a mood of childlike wonder. This mood is ultimately manipulative, however, and the jaded viewer may not be especially impressed with hairless, big-eyed, unisex aliens and glowing spaceships. Ethical considerations, such as the rights of aliens to kidnap whomever they wish for close inspection, are not addressed.

Tellingly, "Close Encounters" won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography, but was not nominated for Best Picture or Screenplay. While it is a very good film, it is not outstanding. The story succeeds as a drama, but there is more form than content.

There are two major versions of "Close Encounters", with perhaps fifteen minutes of differing footage. After the film's release and great success, Spielberg reassembled most of the cast and filmed new scenes including the interior of the alien spaceship. Some other scenes in the original version were cut or replaced. I have not seen this latter version.

Copyright 1997 Brian Koller

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