This week at work, my fellow movie buff friend and I were grilling a newer co-worker, who happens to be significantly younger than we are, on various movies he either has or hasnt seen. When he proclaimed to having seen, yet not liking, Casablanca, we were aghast AGHAST I SAY! Then we really started in on him and realized, there is a massive amount of film that a person may not have seen that was released prior to their birth if you are not really a movie fan. One of those films that he has not seen was 1977s Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
In honor of J. J. Abrams Super 8 being released this weekend, I thought I would focus on another movie involving aliens and kids, while avoiding the megalithic E.T. Hot on the heels of his release of Jaws (and his friend George Lucas’ little space movie), Steven Spielberg gave us a story of a man, Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss), obsessed with an encounter he has with a UFO and the images that seem to be appearing in his head much to the chagrin of his wife, kids and neighbors. After playing with mashed potatoes, paper-mache, and real mud, he figures out what it all means and comes into contact with another person experiencing the same thing… she’s expressing herself via paint and paper if I recall correctly… but still obsessed.
Much has also been made of the fact that Spielberg himself has repeatedly stated that he could not make this movie today it was a film made by a much younger man with very different ideals than how he feels today but that does not diminish the wonderment of this film. Yes, there is a science fiction element to this film but it is a drama. It is a film about following your dreams regardless of the cost (which is where the young vs. old aspect comes in). Roy makes a decision or two that no man with a family would realistically make but it does make for a great film.
Flawed and somewhat dated this movie has Spielberg written all over it, ergo, timeless in a very particular way. His camera angles, pacing and use of special effects for an emotional impact are all present. They may not be as honed as some of his later work but they are there. I for one, love this movie. Not only is Dreyfuss in this but Teri Garr and best of all, Francois Truffaut! Yes THE Truffaut! Filled with classic moments and scenes an incredible John Williams score and an ending that could fill the most cynical person with awe I have always adored this movie.
Perhaps my love of this has to do more with the era in which it was made and my place in it, but I dont imagine I could separate that from how I feel. What I can say is this if you havent seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind, give yourself a treat buy it, rent it or stream it, just see this film.
Pass the mashed potatoes, please…
Cornelius J. Blahg