Monday, March 25, 2013

MOVIE OF THE WEEK: Close Encounters Of The Third Kind


At last, I have finally made it through Steven Spielberg's full filmography (well, except for his lesser films like "Hook" and "Always"). These days it seems hip to discount Spielberg's talent as a director, but watching "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" re-affirmed by opinion that he's one of the absolute best.
This seminal sci-fi flick shows Spielberg at his prime, crafting a thoroughly entertaining adventure. The film follows Roy Neary (played by Richard Dreyfuss), whose life changes after he encounters a UFO. As he seeks to find the truth, we ourselves become immensely fascinated by the various extraordinary occurrences. The intrigue of the film rests on this sense of mystery and wonder, providing wide-eyed escapism at its best.
Despite the grand scope, it actually turns out to be one of Spielberg's more restrained efforts, as the excitement builds from the thematic elements that surround our impending encounter with extraterrestrial life. It's less of an action-adventure and more of a quiet character study. Specifically, we only see brief glimpses of UFO's and much of the plot doesn't feature any direct interaction with aliens.
Despite having an identifiable lead role, it all boils down to our collective psychology as human beings. Throughout history we have been obsessed with the possibility of a civilized world outside our own. Even if we haven't actively sought out UFO's and life on Mars, we've all wondered what's out there in the vast cosmos. This film seeks to fill this void in our understanding, but in a artfully subtle way. As a result, it opens up your imagination and becomes quite thought-provoking and ethereal.
Spielberg's companions behind the camera contribute greatly to the transcendent aura of the film. John Williams composes one of his best scores that captures the grandiose themes without over-embellishing with obvious melodic tricks. The cinematography is also spectacular with some gorgeous shots littered all through the film. Last but certainly not least, the special effects are well done and hold up surprisingly well today. These elements all come together to greatest effect in the ending sequence of the film which is so beautiful that it's almost Malick-esque in it's construction. It really struck me on an almost spiritual level with the combination of breathtaking visuals, intelligent writing and memorable score.
In front of the camera, the actors do fine work too, but they are really just there to service the director and his story. To that end, this is a great example of a "director's film".
One of the common criticisms of Spielberg's works is his penchant for sentimentality. In this instance however, the plot development is so patient that the emotional climax is well-earned. Even with a slightly ambiguous ending the ending, you are left completely satisfied.
When you think of auteurs, Spielberg doesn't immediately come to mind. When it comes to delivering quality "blockbuster" entertainment though, he's a true genius and fully deserving of this title that is usually reserved for his arthouse colleagues.

This film is part of my List of Shame.

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