Earlier this summer, Sony announced they were going to release Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind in theaters for its 40th anniversary. I think I almost jumped out of my skin in excitement. I called my mom to tell her to break out the mashed potatoes. This classic film has been a staple for me growing up.
The film was released in 1977 and follows two different story-lines. Richard Dreyfuss plays Roy Neary, a husband and father utility worker who has a meeting with the U.F.O. while working on a city wide power outage (caused by the visitors). While trying to have a second encounter, he meets single mother Jillian Guiler (Melinda Dillon), whose toddler son (Cary Cuffey) is later taken by the visitors. They both become obsessed with a singular image that seems to have been planted into their minds, and they set out to find the mysterious place in their pictures (or in Roy’s case, also on his dinner plate and later his living room — best line, when the Frenchman shows Roy pictures of this ‘place’ his response, “Yeah, I got one of those in my living room”).
The second story line follows a group of scientists, lead by Frenchman Claude Lacombe (François Truffaut), who investigates the strange reappearances of objects in remote locations and strange “music” that is heard by the locals in those areas. Using the Kodály method of music education (essentially training your ear to understand the music before teaching theory), he is able to figure out the code behind the music, which is then discovered by former cartographer David Laughlin (Bob Balaban) to be a location: Devils Tower in Wyoming.
The government steps in to create a safe place for contact at the coordinates (44.5902° N, 104.7146° W) and Roy and Jillian battle through the obstacles created by the military to keep the area clear of civilians to have a close encounter that satisfies his curiosity and returns her son back to her.
I do not know how many times I have seen this growing up. I always enjoy seeing classics on the larger screen because they can be more amazing than they already are. What I appreciated was the clip before the movie started with interviews with Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, and Denis Villeneuve. They spoke of how the film affected them. Spielberg talked about how the different actors were as close to their real selves when acting.
He also mentioned that this came out after Star Wars and he couldn’t figure how music master John Williams would have anything left to give him for this little film. When Williams returned to him the music set to the film, Spielberg cried and I understand. The music is such a part of the film. There have been plenty of times my mother or I will hear something that will remind us of the theme song and we will start to sing it our selves (and make the hand gestures).
It was a sheer delight to see this. I have many memories surrounding this film. As mentioned before, my mother and I have sculpted many Devil’s Towers out of our mashed potatoes. We have hummed the music which I grew up listening to on vinyl. I have even been to Devil’s Tower as a child. My family was on a road trip, heading to Yellowstone on our way back to California from Kansas. Mom saw a sign for the landmark and made my dad stop there for the afternoon. As she would tell you, “I hiked all the way around it and there was no landing strip.”
As an adult, one of the funnier stories was when I had found out my ex-husband had not seen the movie, which was a bit of a surprise. His reason? He hadn’t seen Close Encounters of the First or Second Kind and didn’t want to ruin the trilogy… Yup. He may have gotten an eye roll and good laugh. He did sit and watch and enjoyed.
I know this is a limited one week release, but if you get a chance to experience it on the large screen, whether for the first time or the um-teenth time, I do recommend. It’s well worth it…again.