Monday, December 21, 2009

Retro-Appreciation: Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Close encounter of the first kind: Sighting of a UFO. Close encounter of the second kind: Physical evidence. Close encounter of the third kind: Contact.

My love for this film grows more and more the more I think about it. There is something about it that just captures me. Up until about a year or so ago, I had never seen the movie in FULL. I had always missed the beginning and caught the movie from 20 minutes in and on. Im not sure if everyone else is like me, but if I miss even just 3 minutes of a movie, Ill feel as if I had never seen it. It's weird, but that's just how I am. So when I finally bought the movie, I felt relieved that I was going to see it in full.

First let me start off by saying that since I was a kid, I had always thought that E.T. and Close Encounters could be in the same town. Eventhough E.T. takes place in California and Close Encounters takes place in Wyoming, they still have a similar looks and tone. They're both in a desert/mountain area. It just feels as if they could be in the same universe. And it's not just because of aliens. They really do a fantastic job on setting the tone and mood in both films.

Close Encounters also has that, hell Ill fucking say it, magical feeling to it. I dont find too many films "magical" (Awesome? Yes. But not usually magical), but this film gives you that overall feeling that you really cant pin-point or explain, you just FEEL it. I mean, the whole end sequence is fucking amazing. It really does make you feel more optimistic about things. At least it does for me. It has a sense of uncertainty to it. That might sound like a bad thing, but it basically says, "Yes, this is a movie, and no we're not trying to MAKE you believe. We're trying to give you the sense of not knowing what is really out there.". When the movie's credits roll with the spaceship in frame, I literally sit there dazed as to what I just saw. And that's every time (Ive watched it at least 5 times in the past 3 months, and that's not even including the 3 times tonight).

What also adds to this movie is the casting of Richard Dreyfuss. He just adds so much to this movie. His wit, his naivety, his insanity, everything. He's just great as Roy Neary. There is one scene in the film where you really feel bad for this guy. And that's the added scene with him in the bathtub, fully clothed, with the water running over him. He just looked like he was at his breaking point with his belief of extra-terrestrials, and his wife didn't believe him. The whole scene just plays really well.

Another thing that works so well, is the humor. As it does in almost every Spielberg film (aside from Temple of Doom). Two of my favorite scenes are when Roy is driving and the "car" slows down behind him, only to be revealed that it's not a car, it's a god damn spacecraft. And the second is when the aliens are taking over Jillian's house, and the vacuum rolls by and the kid says, "Clean everything up!". I love it. Little things like that just adds to a movie. So many movies just worry about the big picture. Little nuances like that can make someone like or really love a film.

And of course, you cant rant about a Spielberg film without mentioning the score. Williams really delivers in Close Encounters. This movie really does prove that simplicity is fucking key. That main 5-note tune is so incredibly good. Actually, that's what Jurassic Park and Close Encounters have in common. Both of the most iconic qualities about those movie are IN the movies themselves. Jurassic Park's being it's logo. The logo shows up on car doors, name tags, walls, mugs, shirts, gates, everything. The same goes with Close Encounters. The theme of the movie shows up almost everywhere. From when they discover the 5 notes, to when Berry plays it on his xylophone, to the classic end scene. I literally know only like... 4 things to play on piano. Close Encounters' theme being one of them. It's just so simplistic and catchy. And you gotta' love the not-fully-played "When You Wish Upon a Star" appearances throughout the movie. Yeah, in the credits, they play the song. But it's only teased throughout the course of the movie.

But one of the things I admire most about Close Encounters of the Third Kind is... The balls it has. Now I know what you're thinking, "Balls? Close Encounters may be good. But it doesnt have balls.". The movie has balls. And for one reason, and one reason only (If you havent seen Close Encounters, then I guess dont read any further?)... The ending. When you see the ending, you think, "Wow, that was good. That was pretty... Wait a minute! Dude totally just ditched his fucking family!". At least, that's what I thought. If this movie were made today, I guarantee you that the studio would have made his family show up on the landing strip to join him. Only to make it a happy ending. Only... It is a happy ending, with a sad reality. I mean, you have this guy, who has 3 kids and a wife. And he just randomly goes with a group of aliens to space for all eternity? That's pretty fucking ballsy for a family film. I mean, I know one of Spielberg's trademarks is parental negligence. But at least in E.T. there was no father to be found. In Close Encounters, the father practically just says, "Fuck this. Im going in space.". It's pretty nuts.

Oh yeah, and one of the greatest images to ever exist...

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