Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Director's Cut) (1998)

July 28, 2016

Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a wholly remarkable movie about extraterrestrial visitors. If you have not seen this film, you have to, it is worth every minute as this film is a masterpiece.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind follows a utilities worker, Roy (Richard Dreyfuss) who has an encounter with an UFO. After this encounter, he seems to be losing his mind, but slowly he figures out what is going on. The movie also follows two other storylines. One is with a mother (Melinda Dillon) of a child (Cary Guffey) who encounters the aliens also. The second follows a group of scientists and military who are investigating the extraterrestrials. This team is led by a Frenchman, Lacombe (Francois Truffaut). Eventually, all three storylines intersect.

I have seen the theatrical cut of this film before, but that was years and years ago. I hardly remember any of the details of the film so I cannot give a comparison between the theatrical cut and the director's cut. From what I read, the director's cut is a superior cut of the film because the theatrical cut was rushed to theaters because of business interests.

What I love about this film is that the extraterrestrials portrayed are mostly benign and do not want to destroy Earth and its inhabitants. Yes, when aliens come and attack Earth it is more exciting (looking at you Independence Day). But, when aliens come to Earth and don't attack, it allows for something completely different: A sense of wonder -- and Spielberg has imbued this film with a great sense of wonder, especially at the end when the aliens finally make contact.

Spielberg handled the aliens in the perfect way in that therewas no explaining them. They arrive, they release some people that were taken for a ride earlier and take some more people for a ride. We don't know why they are taking people, we don't know what was done to the people, we don't know where people are being taken and we don't know where the aliens come from. Having something left to the audiences imagination is powerful.

While the film is a masterpiece in filmmaking, I do have some quibbles with it:

  • The team of scientists is lead by a Frenchman, but when we see the more than a dozen astronauts selected to go with the aliens onto their ship, they are all Americans (based on the flag on their sleeves).
  • Of the more than a dozen astronauts selected, only two were women. What and why?
  • There are some parts of the film where the tone is jarringly uneven. The biggest example of this is the scenes where Roy has a mental breakdown. It starts very dark with Roy crying in the bathtub with the shower on and him dressed normally. His wife walks in and instead of consoling him, she berates him and verbally assaults him in front of their kids. Then she leaves him alone and spends the night in the kids room. The morning comes as a quick cut and we see Roy in an almost slapstick scene where he is pulling out shrubbery and throwing it through the kitchen window. He is running around taking chicken wire fencing from the neighbor's yard (letting ducks roam) and also shoveling dirty into the house through the kitchen window. The neighborhood watches as Roy completely loses his mind and the scene ends darkly with his wife leaving with his children.
  • SPOILERS SKIP THIS BULLET POINT IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE FILM The ending of the film is supposed to feel hopeful, but the unsaid reality of the ending is quite dark. Basically, Roy kisses another woman, then leaves his wife and children behind. Completely ditching his family for a ride in the alien spaceship.

Quibbles aside, I will reiterate that this is a film to be experienced. It is one of Spielberg's best films.


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