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CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND Definitive Director's Edition review

CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND may very well be my favorite Spielberg film. I don’t know. It’s awfully close between RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, JAWS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS..

I had yet to see this Definitive Director’s Cut, though I’ve had it on video for what I believe has been a year now. I had attempted to see this film projected on OSCAR day of this year, but the theater so completely botched it, that I was forced to go without seeing this film in all it’s glory. Now... Thankfully due to the blessed Paramount Theater I have had my chance to see this latest incarnation of Spielberg’s fantastic film.

I have been frustrated for seemingly ever now that I haven’t had a chance to see the original cut of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS because of that blasted Special Edition with that pretty, but ultimately lame interior of the Mothership yuckness that plucked away my own sense of “I wonder what’s inside there” that I was left with, with the original.

Also, that damned Special Edition cut out a ton of the Dreyfuss going nuts sequence and made Teri Garr seem like some sort of mega-bitch, instead of a woman besieged by a seemingly insane and irrationally erratic husband.

BUT, now.... Now we get to see Dreyfuss truly become obsessed. We see the extreme emotional strain between them. We also get to see what the loss of Melinda Dillon’s son does to here, and the state she is tossed into.

And to me, even with the pure glory of all of Douglas Trumbull’s Special Photographic Effects, at the end of this film I’m left with the journey that Roy Neary has taken.

What would happen if you saw the light? And in this film it could be either the light of beings from another planet or God. I’m talking about seeing something that ‘rational people’ don’t believe in. Be it the Kennedy assassination or the Roswell landing. Those kooky scientist we see claiming they’ve seen cities on the surface of Mars or that an Asteroid is coming. Have you seen a ghost? Have you seen the Loch Ness Monster? Were you abducted? The Light at the end of the tunnel in your spare seconds in death?

Then you are back here. Here in the world. The world where people want to know the ingredients of Pop Tarts. Where calories need to be measured. A world with holes in the ozone and death as a possibility of natural sex.

You’ve seen something beyond the realm of our common existence and now you have to interact with your loved ones. Do you tell them? Can you not tell them?

Tomorrow The Iron Giant befriends you whilst hiking in the forest. Do you NOT call CNN? How could you not? But what if when they get there.... he’s gone. This big ‘whatever’ is gone and you are left holding the wind and waving your hands about and gesturing wildly.

BUT WAIT... there’s more. In addition to all of the trouble that will cause... Whatever this great ‘whatever’ you saw did to you, left remainders. Leftovers... psychic impressions. Little fragments of images and tidbits of knowledge. Just enough to eat at ya. Just enough to keep you from being able to function.

I LOVE THAT in this film. How Dreyfuss recognizes something in a shape... He doesn’t know what. He’s had mashed potatoes a hundred times at least and never felt it meant Jack until now. And whatever it means... he knows it’s important.

He’s compelled to figure out what this vague shape in his mind’s eye is. He wishes it wasn’t there. His wife has left him, he struggles and fights with it. But he can’t let go.... cause it won’t let go of him.

What happens to Dreyfuss in this film... I just love. And in David Koepp’s A STIR OF ECHOES it is also done very very well, but in combination with John Williams’ amazing score... which really goes so far beyond a mere score. It becomes the language of the last 15-20 minutes of the film.

This film is so utterly breathtaking with the confidence of it’s storytelling, execution and acting that I can’t help but wonder... What happened?

You know. Spielberg may not have won Best Director or Best Film with CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND... But he did win us. All of us viewers that just fell in love with his stories. He used to tell stories of our time. The most glorious stories from our period. I loved his exploration of the common man to bigger than known events.

Watching a movie like DEEP BLUE SEA, which while being a fun distraction, doesn’t have an ounce of the character development and long time entertainment repeatability of a movie like CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND.

This film, for me, is unassailable. It’s this gleaming gorgeous better than CG film, made of magic lights and lens flares. The look in Dreyfuss’ eyes. He’s seeing these things. I believe it. I know it. There is a fervor to him, an honesty to his consuming thirst to understand what it is he has seen.

Then there is the whole cross-cutting of the ‘government’ side of the story, and it does not feel forced or hooky. The government is everybit as in awe of these things as the normal men and women of the world are. They want to be able to understand their placement in the universe. They want to be able to figure it all out. To see if it is a threat. To ensure that it does not become one.

I love that.

And if there has ever been a more breathtaking religious experience of an ending to a movie on par with the end of this film I am just not familiar with it.

That ship, that natural wonder, and the utter significance of mankind in the scheme of it all. It’s breathtaking.

I love that. I don’t think I ever breathe during that end sequence. I am so completely unaware of the world I’m in at this point. There are no seats, no fellow viewers, no screen. It’s really happening. This isn’t a recreation, this is a happening AS I WATCH IT! For me, it’s that involving.

There were two skips on the Digital Track and I felt an actual physical reaction. My entire body was racked with shivers and the breath left my body in an audible gasp of panic. But thankfully the sound returned. For the briefest of moments it shocked me to reality, and I didn’t want to be here. I like THAT world more.

Can you imagine being there for real? To know without a doubt that we are not alone. To find out that we have a significance in the grand scheme of the universe other than merely occupying this planet of ours.

Call me wacky, call me a kook, but everytime Copernicus comes back from the Observatory I ask if he saw the aliens yet. It’s a standard routine. One of those... Who knows... maybe he’ll tell the truth this time about what he learned as part of SETI.

Meanwhile, I let my computer go on searching for intelligent signals whilst I sleep. It’s Spielberg’s fault. He is directly responsible for my kookiness. But I want to be there for the lightshow. I’m ready for zero-G. I want my flying car. Teleportation. I want little medical scanners that fix things. I want robot servants and pneumatic tube driven transportation. I want Aliens with out cookbooks that want a fat second mate or cook aboard their ship.

I never ever want a sequel to this film, but I glory in the wondering about what happened next. Where’d he go and what did he see?

Strange isn’t it how attached we become to the concepts these movies place in us?

When the film was over, I couldn’t stop singing them damn notes or picturing them last few minutes of the film.

I love this film. I remember watching this film as a kid and being provoked into asking the big questions like, “Are they going to eat him?”

And then being told that not all Aliens kill humans. And that’s when I wanted to meet em. I figure I got a 99 in 1 shot of not being eaten, but ya know.... Every person dies, but not every person gets eaten by an alien. That’s a cool way to go. And if I am too filled with cholesterol.... well maybe they’ll let me sauté up some skinnier folks for the feast.

I just want to travel into deep space and have cool science fictiony gadgets. Yeah... I’m pretty shallow. But gosh, wouldn’t you want to go (of course if it meant leaving all your friends and family and loved ones FOREVER, that’d suck. I wonder if they’d accept the whole AICN gang. I’m sure they’d let me check email from up there. I mean, they’re really really smart... right?)

Sigh. What a movie!

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