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Close Encounters of the Third Kind


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Close Encounters 30th Anniversary DVD on Nov. 13

Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Steven Spielberg's critically acclaimed classic, will be released on Blu-ray Disc and standard DVD in multi-disc sets as "Close Encounters of the Third Kind: 30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition" on November 13th by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Celebrating the 30th anniversary of this motion picture, which Gene Shalit called "one of the most spectacular movies ever made," the set incorporates all three versions of the film, including the first-ever home video release of the 1977 Original Theatrical edition, as well as the re-edited 1980 theatrical Special Edition and Spielberg's definitive Director's Cut (released in 1998 as the Collector's Edition). Bonus material on the 30th Anniversary Ultimate Edition includes a never-before-seen interview with Spielberg created specifically for this release, a retrospective documentary and more. . . .

ComingSoon.net, July 26

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Just in time for that rumoured Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods space-aliens-were-behind-the-earliest-religions movie! :)

If memory serves -- and I base this on reading Leonard Maltin's video guide many years ago -- there is one other edition of Close Encounters, namely the TV version, which apparently used ALL the footage, including the scenes that were deleted from the 1977 version as well as the scenes that were added to the 1980 version. Since the Blu-Ray disc puts the 1977, 1980 and 1998 versions all on the same disc -- using the magic of "seamless branching" -- it should be possible to include the TV version on there too, yes?

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 7 months later...

I finally got my copy of the Blu-Ray disc, and just finished watching the bonus features and the original 1977 version of the film. Very interesting.

It's striking to think that Steven Spielberg and Richard Dreyfuss were both in their late 20s when they made this -- though the Dreyfuss character gives his date of birth as December 4, 1944, making him not quite 33 when the film came out in November 1977. (Spielberg actually turned 30 late in the production.) Already, at that age, Dreyfuss was playing a family man with a house and a wife and three kids ... and he drops it all to follow aliens. Spielberg says he wouldn't tell the story this way now; he says the character's readiness to abandon his family for a ride into space reflects the "youth" that he, Spielberg, was feeling at the time. (Spielberg's first child wouldn't be born until almost a decade later; he now has several.) Interestingly, though, the Dreyfuss character is accompanied to Devil's Tower by ... a woman who is desperate to get her son back from the aliens. Dreyfuss's wife puts family first, and ends up looking kinda bad. Dreyfuss's friend puts family first, and ends up looking pretty good. The main difference between the two seems to be that one (the married wife) is holding Dreyfuss back, while the other (the single, unattached parent) is not. I actually found myself beginning to imagine E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial -- which came out five years later -- as a sort of sequel in which Teri Garr and her three kids move to a new home and find themselves deep in denial, persuading themselves that Dreyfuss has gone to Mexico with "Mary" instead of into space with the aliens. Spielberg has always said that E.T. was inspired by his parents' divorce, and I wonder if the slightly-younger Spielberg ever tried to see the marital split in Close Encounters from the children's point of view, rather than Dreyfuss's.

Like I say, I hadn't seen the film in over 20 years, but I have always vaguely remembered the scene where Garr complains that the kids shouldn't stay up late to watch the rest of The Ten Commandments because the movie's way too long. (Hey, I REMEMBER staying up late to watch that film on TV when I was a kid back then! With commercials and everything, it really DID take up the whole evening!) Spielberg would go on to reference the story of Moses elsewhere in his career -- he featured the Ark of Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and it was his idea that the first DreamWorks cartoon should be The Prince of Egypt, which I believe he pitched as an animated version of The Ten Commandments -- and it's not too hard to draw parallels between the alien encounter on Devil's Tower with the divine encounters on Mount Sinai. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I am reminded of how the barriers placed by the U.S. government around Devil's Tower -- and the way the local livestock are knocked out with nerve gas -- is vaguely reminiscent of the instructions God gave Moses specifying that no animals and no other persons should come up the mountain, on pain of death. So it is striking that Spielberg has an "everyman" punch through the barrier and make contact with the aliens AGAINST the wishes of the official, institutional powers that be. Of course, the "everyman" does this because the aliens have summoned him; so if one wants to pursue the Devil's Tower - Mount Sinai connection, one could say that one of the themes of this film is that "everymen" have been called to commune with God directly, and the institutional religions get in the way with all their don't-cross-this-line rules. (Christianity mixes things up a bit by ripping the veil that separates God from man, but improper contact with the divine can still be lethal.)

But while I had remembered most or all of that other stuff, I had completely forgotten about the religious service that is held for the people in the red suits just before they approach the aliens, asking to be taken as "pilgrims" into outer space. And this scene is prefigured, to a certain degree, by an earlier scene in which one of the military bigwigs says he wants to come up with a plan that will allow the army to evacuate every "Christian soul" away from the vicinity of Devil's Tower. A throwaway line of dialogue, perhaps, but when that religious service came up near the end, I began to wonder.

And hey, where were those people in the red suits coming from? The first time we see them, they are walking through an air hanger partly filled with crates. CRATES.

And speaking of possible Raiders of the Lost Ark allusions, I was also struck by how the American government had set up a bank of movie cameras to film the arrival of the UFOs on Devil's Tower ... late at night, surrounded by craggy rocks ... just as the Nazis have a bank of movie cameras surrounding the Ark of the Covenant at the end of Raiders ... late at night, surrounded by craggy rocks ...

In one of the bonus features, the point is made that Close Encounters was the first major pop-culture expression of the idea that we had nothing to fear from aliens -- and I found myself wondering about 2001: A Space Odyssey, which came out nine years earlier. Kubrick's movie is rather ambivalent on the question, isn't it? I mean, the aliens encourage the advancement of the species, but at the expense of individual people (a similar theme comes up in Arthur C. Clarke's Childhood's End); the first sign of alien influence on human development is the rise of a new kind of warfare; and if you follow Clarke's version of the conclusion of that film, you learn that the Star Child is capable of saving the Earth from nuclear self-destruction, but then this also must mean that the Star Child "controls" us now in a sense. And, hmmm, what about The Day the Earth Stood Still way, way back in 1951? Yes, there is a threat of doom there, but only because we already pose a threat to each other and to the worlds beyond our own; apart from that, the aliens are our friends. Hmmm.

Anyway. I hope to watch the other versions of this film later this week.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I just finished watching the 1980 "special edition", and have to say I pretty much agree with this:

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'Close Encounters' 30 years after

Sony's multi-disc 30th Anniversary DVD edition of the picture, which features the '77 theatrical version, the controversial 1980 "Special Edition" and the '98 "Director's Cut," all together for the first time, prompted me to check into the film further than I have in some time. One question I had was whether or not my initial reaction to the film was just on account of my being a brat. Answer: not really, and not really a hard question, as it turns out. What did pique my interest was Spielberg's reconception of Neary, which was instated in the Special Edition and remains in the Director's Cut. It really does change the whole timbre of the film, and does so in a fairly ruthless way. . . .

A lot of critics gave the film stick because it ennobled a character who pretty much abandons his family

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Incidentally, it's not just the way that the "special edition" adds new footage that makes Roy's family look worse and Roy himself a little better; the "special edition" also leaves out some of the footage from the original version where Roy REALLY seems to be going off the deep end (such as that sequence where he uproots all the plants, empties a garbage can in the street, throws bricks and things in the kitchen window, steals the neighbour's chicken wire fence, and so on); without all that stuff, the family's readiness to abandon Roy, and his wife's shock when he tells her that SHE'S being "crazy", comes across as much, much less justified.

What do you think about the fact that the "98 Director's Cut" that restores all of Roy's craziness but keeps the initial scenes of domestic non-bliss?

And I've always been fascinated by the Spielberg interview thats on the DVD and the '98 VHS(and looks to have been shot during the filming of Saving Private Ryan) where he says that he couldn't make the movie after being a father, since he could no longer make a hero out of a parent who abandons their children.

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Bobbin Threadbare wrote:

: What do you think about the fact that the "98 Director's Cut" that restores all of Roy's craziness but keeps the initial scenes of domestic non-bliss?

It balances things out a little more, and it works better dramatically because it shows why she is leaving so IMPULSIVELY during the day (wearing her nightgown still, I believe). The "special edition" leaves you thinking she is leaving because of what happened the night before, but surely she would have taken the time to get dressed first, if she were going to wait until the next day before leaving; the "director's cut", on the other hand, shows her leaving because of the way Roy is acting At That Very Moment.

Putting the two sequences together in the same movie also works because it gives one of Roy's lines from the early film an extra sort of resonance. The night before (seen by itself in the 1980 version), Roy's wife finds him clothed and soaking wet in the shower, and she proposes going to see a "family therapist", but it isn't long before Roy's cries for help lead to her yelling that she hates him, and to his children yelling at him and calling him a "crybaby". The morning after (seen by itself in the 1977 version), Roy's wife wakes up in a semi-apologetic mood, only to discover that he is happily pulling up plants and stealing chicken wire from the next-door neighbour; and as Roy tries to explain himself to her, he tells her (paraphrasing from memory), "When I STOP doing this, THAT'S when I'll need a doctor." It is only in the 1998 version -- the "director's cut" -- that Roy's line the morning after is presented as a response of some sort to her line the night before.

So, yeah, that section of the film is a little more balanced. However, the INTRODUCTION of Roy in the "director's cut" is identical to that of the "special edition" -- he is still the concerned dad with the nagging wife and the nagging children, rather than the semi-pathetic child-like innocent that he seemed to be when he was introduced in the original version of the film.

: And I've always been fascinated by the Spielberg interview thats on the DVD and the '98 VHS(and looks to have been shot during the filming of Saving Private Ryan) where he says that he couldn't make the movie after being a father, since he could no longer make a hero out of a parent who abandons their children.

Yeah, that's definitely interesting.

What's also interesting is how the brand-new interview recorded in 2007, for the new DVD and the Blu-Ray, contradicts the interview that he did in 1997 on at least one major point, i.e. whose idea it was to ensure that the alien melody was five notes, no more and no less. (In the 1997 documentary, at least, the version that Spielberg tells then is corroborated by a separate interview with John Williams. The 2007 interview is just Spielberg on his own.)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Pictures of the Star Trek and Star Wars references in this film.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 7 years later...

Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, who won an Oscar for Close Encounters, has died.

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Hungarian-born cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond, winner of an Oscar for his achievements on “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and a nominee for “The Deer Hunter,” “The River” (1984) and the “The Black Dahlia” (2006), has died at 85. His business partner Yuri Neyman said he died January 1.

Over a period of five decades in Hollywood, his other outstanding achievements included “Deliverance,” “Blow Out,” “The Ghost and the Darkness” and such Robert Altman films as “McCabe and Mrs. Miller” and “The Long Goodbye.” And he considered it the ultimate compliment that no two of his movies looked alike.

Working into his eighties, Zsigmond also shot a number of episodes of the Fox sitcom “The Mindy Project” from 2012-14. Zsigmond ranked among the 10 most influential cinematographers in film history in a 2003 survey conducted by the International Cinematographers Guild.

 

It's the side effects that save us.
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