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Close Encounters of the Third Kind

October 6, 2010

618. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Directed by Steven Spielberg
USA, 1977

IMDB | allmovie

Reviewed by Rachel
First viewing


Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) witnesses a UFO and becomes obsessed with them. His alien fixation brings him into contact with fellow UFO witnesses, but costs him his job and his family. Meanwhile, scientist Claude Lacombe (François Truffaut) develops a theory to communicate with extra-terrestrial visitors via music.

Essential Scene:

Jillian Guiler (Melinda Dillon) and her young son Barry (Cary Guffey) were one of the first people to see the UFOs. As a result they both have something they can’t shake: Jillian obsessively attempts to draw a mountain-like shape while Barry repeatedly plays a tune on his xylophone.

As Jillian goes outside to throw away her drawings, the clouds gather above her. Barry squeals with joy as he watches from inside. The orange lights of the spaceships appear and Jillian goes inside to secure the doors and the windows. For the first time the appearance of the spaceships feels sinister as the score, driven by sharp strings, starts to intensify.

Barry stands by the open fireplace.

Barry: You can come and play now.

[The fireplace lights up with bright electric light.]

Barry: Come in through the door!

With the orange light now getting brighter and brighter, Jillian battles the unseen forces trying to get in through fireplace and then through the floor grate. Electric devices develop a mind of their own as more and more items turn on and work at full power. Jillian holds Barry and screams in horror at the fury of the cooker and washing machine as they rattle and shake.

The orange light now fills the room and Jillian, still holding Barry, sinks to her knees by the kitchen counter. In her panicked state she doesn’t notice Barry crawl out through the doggy door. She tries to grab his legs but it’s no use. Once Barry is gone, all the appliances grind to a halt and the orange light immediately disappears.


It’s quite refreshing to find a film in which the visiting aliens aren’t nasty beings who want to kill us all. Instead they’re quite British in their attempts at communication, with a quiet “Erm, hellooo…” approach. Well, they did capture some citizens out of curiosity. But we don’t think about that. The idea of music being a sole communicator between humans and aliens is a charming one. Also a realistic one, if you consider how music does transcend all language barriers.

The special effects in Close Encounters still hold up, especially on blu-ray. The odd “phwoar” passed my lips when I saw the mothership. However, this may have been another Jaws situation: I’m not completely sure whether the aliens should have been seen. That’s probably just me.

I’m not a huge sci-fi fan. The film didn’t really change my mind but I can appreciate the visuals, cast and story enough to say that someone more inclined towards the genre will really enjoy this.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 6, 2010 12:49 pm

    I love Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and I really need to buy it on DVD because it’s so damn long! Whenever they run it on TV they put in tons of commercials so it runs like four and a half hours.

    the music at the end of the movie was a huge inside joke between me and my scifi lovin’ Dad for like 10 years.

    • October 6, 2010 1:16 pm

      I hate the way TV treats movies. Interruptions from adverts, continuity announcers talking over the end credits while you’re trying to have a moment of contemplation, editing the ‘bad’ language (apparently that’s more prevalent in America)… What a mood killer.

  2. Mark Busby permalink
    October 6, 2010 7:31 pm

    There is a notorious Hollywood memoir by one of the producers, Julia Phillips, called You’ll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again. The section on the behind-the-scenes of CE3K is intense, no-one comes out of it well, particularly Spielberg and Truffaut.

  3. Jim Lawrence permalink
    December 22, 2010 6:22 pm

    I have a sudden urge to eat mashed potato.

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