Steven Spielberg proves decisively that a special effects-dependent film need not be cold, mechanistic, or simpleminded. Here he presents first contact with an extraterrestrial culture in spirit of near-religious awe in sharp contrast to the dark paranoia of traditional science fiction
Cold War parables. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND is a humanistic postmodern masterpiece that incorporates much of movie history--images, sounds, and subtle evocations of the works of Walt Disney, John Ford, Alfred Hitchcock, Cecil B. DeMille, and Chuck Jones--into its revisionist project.
Classic Sixties fantasy television fare such as "Star Trek," "Bewitched," and "The Twilight Zone" also figure in the meaningful mosaic of citations. This film shows the power pop-culture imagery exerts over our humdrum lives and the ever present lure of escapism. The movies may set you free, it
suggests, but perhaps only at the cost of losing real human relationships.
The story depicts the life-transforming experiences of lineman Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) who is sent out into the night to investigate a mysterious power outage. His truck gets stalled on the road and he's bathed in a brilliant light from above. Thus begins Roy's journey from disinterested
spectator to impassioned participant in an otherworldly spectacle. A mysterious vision and five musical notes are imprinted in his mind after he witnesses strange lights in the sky. His family life is devastated by his obsession but he acquires a spiritual surrogate family along the path to
enlightenment including the delightful (and delighted) child Cary Guffey who is spirited away from his mother (Melinda Dillon) during the film's only frightening set piece and Francois Truffaut (the beloved director of such French New Wave classics as THE 400 BLOWS, JULES AND JIM and THE WILD
CHILD) as Claude Lacombe, the endearingly humane director of the scientific ad hoc "welcome wagon."
Special effects master Douglas Trumbull (the FX wizard of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY) created the strikingly beautiful and dreamy visions that set the look of this film apart from the cool razzle dazzle of Industrial Light and Magic projects. John Williams contributes one of his most unusual and
memorable scores. This is one for the angels.
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