• by Wes Singleton

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (40th Anniversary Edition), A

Rated PG, 135 minutes

I'm showing my age, but the Steven Spielberg film "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" has a special place in my heart, even with it being released (and overshadowed) the same year as another huge sci-fi film, a small little thing called "Star Wars." It was the one of the first films I remember seeing in the theater (along with "Star Wars" and "Jaws"), and I was awe-inspired by the visuals and the now-iconic John Williams score - heck I even bought a disco-45 record of it (OK, now really, really showing my age). It's hard to believe it's been 40 years, and Sony Pictures has rereleased it, and seeing it on the big screen again brought back a flood of memories, and I should say, it holds up well, evoking the hope and wonder it did as a child.

After an encounter with U.F.O.s, a line worker (Oscar-winner Richard Dreyfuss)

feels undeniably drawn to an isolated area in the wilderness where something spectacular is about to happen.

Directed and written by Spielberg, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" is a bastion of wonder, fun and enjoyment, and it's clear that this was a passion project for Spielberg, who said he had the idea for it even before directing the blockbuster "Jaws," another film of importance from my childhood, though I'll save that one for later. Viewing it as an adult, "Close Encounters" is not just about connecting with the aliens, but connecting with others, and then believing it just might be true.

Dreyfuss is in terrific, everyman form, and he was ubiquitous at the time, having won an Oscar the same year for "The Goodbye Girl," and he's well-supporting by Oscar-nominee Melinda Dillon, Oscar-nominee Teri Garr as his wife, Cary Guffey as the boy who first befriends the aliens, Francois Truffaut, an acclaimed director in real life himself, as one of the scientists, and Bob Balaban as his assistant.

Williams score provides some of the most powerful, emotional moments of the film, and Vilmos Zsigmond's beautiful photography rightfully won an Oscar that year, along the visual effects team, who were awarded special Oscars for their work. You can't help but wonder how "Close Encounters" laid the groundwork for Spielberg's next sci-fi masterpiece, "E.T. - The Extra Terrestrial," another iconic (but completely different) view of the relationship between humans and aliens.

"Close Encounters of the Third Kind" touches upon many other themes, including government cover-ups and UFO hysteria, but it's still a work of beauty and excitement, and you'll shed a tear (as I did) when the space ships zoom off after having had human contact. See it again, be moved and reminded that whether or not aliens or UFO's actually exist, there's some wonder in believing that.

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