I’ve recently dived into doing ”best of’ lists, so as I’ve explained, I’ve decided to do my top 20 SF films. This is my personal list, so feel free to disagree with it and of course, you’ll be horribly wrong.
We look to the skies at #13 with Steven Speilberg’s wonderful Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Close Encounters isn’t an especially intellectual film. It’s not especially saying anything important about humanity. It’s not going to trouble your brain after you leave the cinema or take out the DVD. It will however dazzle the knickers off you as it tells the story of an ordinary working man Roy Neary (Richard Dreyfuss) who encounters the extraordinary (UFO’s) and how it changes his life forever.
It’s a giant spectacle of a film which because it’s known to most people now through TV broadcasts, is lost. This was a film that when I saw it as a kid at the cinema on one of the biggest screens in the UK and on 70mm was an immense treat. As for the plot, it’s a thin one, but this matters little to Speilberg as it’s a skeleton he hangs well realised (not to mention well written) characters focusing in on something remarkable but they don’t know what until the end, and unlike a lot of films featuring aliens this is a hopeful, genuinely uplifting film that’s joyful. Ok, Neary’s family is a mess and he’s essentially walked out on them but lets skim over that and whoop in wonder at the spectacular tale that Speilberg tells.
This of course was back in the day when Speilberg was young and hungry, so it’s not as bloated and sludgy as some of his more recent films, nor is it trying hard to well, try hard. This is Speilberg at his most natural before he got, well, lazy. He’s grafting all the time here making every scene work which shows in any edition you care to watch.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a joy. What is also a joy is the sort of trailer we’ll never ever get again.
Next time, we venture into deep space…….