The main thing I remember from my first viewing of Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind as a child was that I could start playing the five notes as I started Concert Band around the age of eleven. Imagine my disappointment when, after finally revisiting the movie years later, I have been playing the notes the wrong way! Oh well…
Two years after Jaws brought Steven Spielberg into the limelight, he unleashed one of the most wonder oozing films of all time. Sci-Fi films can go one of two ways: They can go the way of action and adventure (as was the case with another 1977 classic, Star Wars), or they can show how we feel about the wonders of the universe. CEOT3K falls in the latter category.
The film does not entirely focus on a main character so much as the emotions the characters (and we in real life) feel when we see anything we don’t understand, yet are still yearning to learn more. It is clear that many things are happening and catching the attention of many people. One of them is Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss), an electrician who notices something one night that he can’t explain, but will not let go by, even if his wife (Teri Garr) wants nothing to do with it. He also meets Jillian Guiler (Melinda Dillon), a single mother trying to look out for her son Barry (Cary Guffey).
While all actors give convincing performances (Dillon was nominated for an Oscar, and Guffey is a scene stealer), the movie belongs to the people behind the camera. Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond (who won the film’s only Oscar), supplies each frame with the imagery and color that give each one a life of its own. As is the case with every movie he has composed, John Williams brings life to the soul and backbone of the picture. Finally, it is Spielberg who keeps us somewhat fearful until, at just the right moment, he changes our fear to awe.
Parents, there is very little here that will be bad for a kid. Some swearing, but nothing horrible. The PG rating is justified.
I have a friend of mine, Jimmy, who is not a big fan of “old” movies, since it is sometimes hard to feel nostalgic for movies of the past. My response to him is that while there are many movies of the past that are forgettable but (to a degree) gives the viewer a feeling of nostalgia, there are a select few that are downright timeless. They exceed the time they were made in, and speak to anyone with a pulse, regardless of the year they were born in. There is no doubt in my mind that Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind is a pure and timeless classic.
Note: I do now know how to play the five notes. G A F F (an octave lower) and C.
Overall: Five Stars *****