CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND Definitive Director's Edition review
Published at: Aug. 2, 1999, 3:32 a.m. CST by headgeek
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?”
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?)