Re-released in theaters for its 40th Anniversary.
I’ve decided to travel back in time to see Steven Spielberg’s 1977 classic “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” And I have to tell you: this ranks with some of the absolute best Sci-Fi pictures the American cinema has ever crafted.
In Muncie, Indiana, toys and TV sets automatically turn on, blackouts occur, and mailboxes and refrigerators go on the fritz. Why? Because alien ships decide to pass by. And it’s not just in Indiana. A cargo ship is found in the Gobi Desert, and the people of India are chanting the ship’s musical signal. In fact, the government is buzzing over it.
Richard Dreyfus plays an electrical lineman named Roy, who comes across the flying saucers, and his wife (Teri Garr) thinks he’s crazy, especially when he begins attacking her garden in order to build a symbol he just encountered. It’s not just him. There’s also a single mother named Jillian (Melinda Dillion), whose three-year-old boy Barry (Cary Guffey) gets abducted by the aliens. They must team up to get answers, and Roy ends up being interrogated by a French scientist (the late Francois Truffaut) and his American interpreter (Bob Balaban), especially since the military crafts up a false gas leak in order to prevent witnesses. “Witnesses of what?,” you may ask. Witnesses of their communication to the aliens.
Most Sci-Fi movies these days, like “Independence Day” or “Jupiter Ascending” (ugh), relay on wall-to-wall CGI effects and tasteless characters to tell a story. But “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” comes from a time when alien pictures were closely studied, and craft visionary images. Spielberg is the man who mostly knows his stuff, past and present. And I can’t tell you how much I love those sounds-sounds of the alien ships, and the people who study them. Dreyfus, Dillion, Guffey, Truffaut, and Balaban are all uniformly fine, and the special effects are dazzling. Again, unlike “Independence Day,” this is no generic Sci-Fi picture. This is a work of art, and when you see its remarkable conclusion, your jaw will drop.