Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Steven Spielberg, USA, 1977, 132 min.

Spielberg definitely had a vision when making Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The idea of life from other planets has a deep meaning for him. You can see that he has been flirting with aliens throughout his career. (Now that’s a weird sentence.) And this film is filled with his opinions of how an encounter might occur.

The film is large and sprawling, and some of the scenes are fantastic. Richard Dreyfuss’s freak-out when he realizes that he has to build the mountain in his living room. Young Cary Guffey’s house being psychically/telepathically assaulted by an unknown force. The astronomers tearing the globe out when they realize what the numbers they have been receiving mean.

Each scene is constructed well and usually visually-striking. The problem is that everything that happens in the film feels very abritrary. Each scene can be extracted and replaced with any other scene the Speilberg might have made up. It’s an easy way to include good scenes, but the scenes are not earned. This makes the film more an exercise in craftsmanship rather than the emotional journey it intends to be.

This film wins the award “Least Erotic Kiss” for the scene where Teri Garr kisses the half-sunburned Richard Dreyfuss while all he really wants to do is just watch the skies.

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