“All I want to know is what’s going on!”
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
Response to Peary’s Review:
… he leaves behind his wife and kids and goes there with “a single mother (Melinda Dillon), whose little boy was abducted by a UFO (in a classic sequence).”
Once there, he finds that “amid great secrecy, French scientist Claude Lacombe (Francois Truffaut) and many U.S. government officials and astronauts have gathered for the first meeting with the alien visitors.”
Peary — who nominates this as one of the Best Pictures of the Year in his Alternate Oscars — argues that “Spielberg has made a marvelous picture, an enthralling, myth-making work full of suspense, mystery, and a sense of awe and wonder about space travel and alien life.” He points out that “the special effects by Douglas Trumbull are breathtaking — when the mother ship makes its first appearance, your jaw may drop open.”
He concedes that “the story has gaps in it and some of the bits with Roy [Dreyfuss] and his family are awkward:”
However, he asserts that “the film is so ambitious, imaginative, and visually impressive that one can overlook its few flaws.”
I think I’m mostly in agreement. While the screenplay is littered with issues — see CinemaSins’ “Everything Wrong with ‘Close Encounters'” video for no less than 127 “sins”, including how terribly Dreyfuss’s character acts (especially towards his family) for most of the film — it’s too visually impressive not to take notice of (and must have been triply so back in the late 1970s, before CGI).
So much has been said and written about this Oscar-nominated blockbuster — made just after Spielberg finished up work on Jaws (1975) — that I humbly implore readers to search all that out if they’d like to learn more; meanwhile, it should definitely (as Peary says) “be seen on a large screen” if possible. Of special note are all scenes between Oscar-nominated Melinda Dillon and Cary Guffey as her enchanted young son (the abduction sequence is filmed like a horror flick scene):
… and everything related to the spectacularly filmed spaceship landing.
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:
(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)