Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Director’s Cut) (1977/1998)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Revisiting a film many years later can be risky: it can reaffirm your love for it but could also expose yourself to a reassessment that points to one’s innocence having been replaced with cynicism. While it is still a joy to watch CE3K, I noticed more how the midsection of the film drags despite its simplistic narrative, Richard Dreyfuss’ acting borders on maniacal and his characterisation of Roy Neary feels more grating this time round. His obsession that (comically?) drove his family away seems contrived in order to justify the film’s ending and I can’t help but think that this could have been better handled and written. Nevertheless, Douglas Trumbull’s special effects stood the test of time extremely well (even in the scratchy print we saw) and John Williams’ music is as enchanting and awe-inspiring as the first time you’ve heard it. Having just had his first major success with Jaws, Spielberg was still a young(ish) director but his confidence and flair is already on display here – and also his sentimentality, something that will get more overwhelming in the late 80s/90s. Scenes, now with hindsight, seem to foreshadow his later work: the train station scene is reminiscent of Schindler’s List while the alien invasion at the Guiler’s house could have been Poltergeist (and yes, I know he didn’t direct it but his fingerprints was all over that film he produced); not to mention that this film is practically a rehearsal or a precursor to E.T.. While I can’t say CE3K is Spielberg’s best film (unfortunately, it wouldn’t even make the top 5 for me) but in the age of Independence Day and War of the Worlds, its positive optimism and pioneering originality is undeniable almost 40 years later.


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