Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Close Encounters of the Third Kind; science-fiction drama, USA, 1977; D: Steven Spielberg, S: Richard Dreyfuss, François Truffaut, Melinda Dillon, Teri Garr, Bob Balaban, J. Patrick McNamara, Lance Henriksen

Indiana electrical lineman Roy Neary is driving in his car at night in order to fix a blackout in the town. But on his way he encounters a UFO and becomes obsessed with it, acting weird at home. He starts getting visions of a mountain in Wyoming, and when his wife and kids leave him he goes on to find it. He meets Jillian, whose son was abducted by UFOs, and who also has visions of that mountain. He also meets scientist Lacombe and his team of UFO researchers who inform him that UFOs will land near that mountain. When they do, the Aliens return the abducted people and take Roy and other volunteers with them in the spaceship.

In 1977 "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" and "Star Wars" were the main favorites to win the Oscar and BAFTA for best picture, but in the end it was still an independent triumph of the brilliant introverted comedy "Annie Hall". Although that is justified, "Close Encounters" are also an excellent movie, but an unusually intelligent one for the science-fiction genre—the ultimate UFO-sightings film—a one that deserved to win more than just the Oscar for best cinematography. Many never accepted Steven Spielberg as a great director due to the fact that he was hired by Hollywood and earned a lot of money, but some of his films, like this one, are simply genius, whether they were directed by him or lets say G. Melies or K. Zeman. Curiously, the true nature of the visit of the Aliens is never explained, as well as the moral contradiction between their forced abductions and their innocence, leaving a lot of things open for interpretation, while the story does not have a clear linear plot—actually, the vague story is more experimental than a straight forward narrative, thus in a way being closer to an art-film than a big budget film.

Spielberg showed a rich movie language while crafting the story: besides spectacular scenes conjured up thanks to a fantastic visual style (a "stranded" ship in the middle of the Mongolian desert; the Alien abduction of the kid in the house at night; Roy builds a "mountain" in his house, until he spots the identical, real life mountain on TV; the aesthetically pleasant, monumental 30-minute 'tour-de-force' sequence of the final arrival of dozens of giant UFO ships that show up as stars in the sky at night and hover around the mountain), expressionistic toying with lights and shadows, it also stimulates thematically with a wonderful role of the UFO researcher by the French director François Truffaut with a charmingly bad English accent—who serves as a meta-symbol for the problem of two different cultures trying to communicate and find a common ground—whereas it has a visionary message about the cover up of the government that directs a fake chemical accident at a mountain in Wyoming in order to evacuate the inhabitants as to keep the landing of the UFOs in that area a secret. The movie also fascinates with its stoic style and message about the human spirit which is in turmoil until it finds the truth.


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