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Film Review: Close Encounters of the Third Kind

What do you get when you combine aliens, a little bit of mystery, tasteful comedy, good acting, and award-winning direction? A wonderful film from one of the most celebrated directors of our time, Stephen Spielberg. “Close Encounters” places Richard Dreyfuss and Melinda Barro in roles of regular suburbanites who both believe to have seen a UFO. The plot thickens and the intrigue begins when these two determined people try to find out what is really going on in their town.

Dreyfuss, obsessed with the UFO sightings, nearly rives his family away, and destroys his home in suburbia because of his unrelinquished need to answer his own questions. Although this is obviously a science fiction film, Dreyfuss also turns in just the right amount of delightful comedy to keep boredom from the audience’s grasp. Spielberg has won a hit with his heartfelt, intriguing, sci-fi flick that has that patented Spielberg ending we all have grown to love over the years. The reason for the greatness of this movie lies firmly in the outstanding performances by Dreyfuss, Barro, and co-star Terri Garr.

Dreyfuss as a knack for being able to portray an erratic man who in one instant is completely normal, and at other times becomes utterly insane. Melinda Barro also puts in an extremely believable performance as Dreyfuss’s side-kick in search of her abducted son. But perhaps the most hidden success of this movie is the very underrated actress Teri Garr, who put in her two cents as Dreyfuss’s wife. Garr did play a small role, yet it was effective, it produced a gauge of just how crazy Dreyfuss was really getting. The wonderful acting carried the film over the obvious special effects that Spielberg uses.

This film was pretty much original for it’s time, but once you see the special effects, you are instantly reminded of films like E. T. , Star Wars and other such science fiction slash space odyssey’s of our time. But since this movie was made before many of these others, I believe it was just a draw off all of the stories and possibilities of encountering another life form. “Close Encounters” has a good mixture of character and film cinematography. Spielberg relies on the actors to make the special effects seem that much more special.

He also uses several very effective camera techniques, ike tilt shots to convey the message of power or insignificance, or a series of jump-cuts to relay the feel of intenseness to the audience. In one particular scene, a chase scene, Spielberg effectively uses jump-cutting between the protagonists, Dreyfuss and Barro, and the government, who are trying to keep these two away from a rendezvous with the aliens. During most of the movie the shots were straight up full shots with some interesting close-ups to bring significance to character or object, relying on the special effects to wow the audience.

I believe that Spielberg wanted simply to make the audience think. He wanted us to ponder the possibilities of an encounter with another life form as well as to think of the many things that we are naive to. He wanted us to realize that we know very little of what the government does, and far less about the rest of the universe. “Close Encounters” is not another one of those no- brainers that spoon feed everything to you; the film makes you think and formulate your own opinions. For me, this flick was very interesting and extremely worth the time and money I spent to watch it.

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