Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)


Flip a coin between this and JAWS as being my favorite. There's just nothing else like this in the history of movies for me. Later in his career, Spielberg couldn't quite stick the landing as effectively in something like A.I. But here, he somehow manages to seamlessly combine the realistic domesticity of a suburban family with the fantastical. Personally, I do believe in alien life so this film ends up not feeling too fantastical. Spielberg showcases passion and the struggle for significance, surrounded by those who aren't on his wavelength. The Director's Cut in particular, knows how to set up family life so strongly that the inevitable disruption has a genuine emotional weight right from the get-go. Probably because it is so character driven by Roy's obsession. There is a beautifully framed shot of Roy's face with his son in the background tearing up. It's as if the camera is too close to create a genuine sense of discomfort. Obviously, there are sequences that rival most horror directors, combining Bava-like lighting at one point with a Raimi POV shot as the alien force descends down the chimney in hopes of finding a way inside to get Barry.

One line of dialogue I noticed this time around as Roy is talking to his wife over the phone that might very well sum up Spielberg's career: "I am an adult, even though there is no such thing." And within minutes, he has gone from wanting his family back to seeing the tower on TV. His fate is sealed. I imagine a lot of visionaries struggle with wanting to make a work of art that means something, that is important. Even if it means coming off as crazy and indulgent and selfish. It makes perfect sense that Roy would leave it all in pursuit of a whole other world. Directors often have to do the same. They have to leave their families on location scouts and long shoots. Sacrifices for the sake of art are inevitable. Why not see what else is out there? Sometimes that's what going to the movies feels like for me. Instead of dealing with money, responsibilities or getting things done around the house, I would rather enter the spaceship of a movie theater to be whisked away (or even just sit in my recliner). And seeing this on the big screen in a beautifully remastered 4K print proved to me that it is a monumental film for my lifetime.  A+

James Laczkowski