Montreal Film Journal


This is a very exceptional movie, believe me. In a way, it's obviously science- fiction, but... Though UFOs and aliens are involved, I didn't feel that it's what the film is really about. In interview, Spielberg mentions how this is a "naive, idealistic story about a man who gets stuck on a vision and does everything to turn it into reality." I know, this ain't really clear, but that's not that kind of film. You could easily compare it to "2001: A Space Odyssey". Both films are mysterious, confusing tales involving spaceships, lights, colors and a weird journey. If you read my "2001" review, you know how puzzled that film left me. So much that I couldn't even convince myself to give it the high rating it deserved. Why is it easier this time? It ain't hard to understand: the tone is much different. Unlike Kubrick, Spielberg doesn't want to make his film impossible to really get. Spielberg is a good-hearted man who loves movies, fantasy and childhood. He wants to make films with a sense of amazement. And Spielberg's film is real smart and touching, in an unusual way...

Basically, you got this cat played by the wonderful Richard Dreyfuss, a blue collar, married with children regular Joe. On a strange night, he experiences something unexplainable. Lights, colors.. And he's not alone, and that ain't over. Other strange events happen elsewhere. WW2 planes are found in the desert. In India, natives recall an encounter with something in the sky. A mother loses her son to the lights that came from the clouds... And it all leads to two things. A 5 note melody, and some kind of hill of sort. Dreyfuss gets obsessed with that hill, and will do anything he can to understand... And that's all I'm gonna tell you. The pleasure of the film is in the way Spielberg makes us want to understand as much as his hero.

It's all well written and directed. The story is intriguing, and the characters are interesting. Visually, the film is dazzling. Even some twenty years later, the FX and mostly Spielberg's wild imagination are mind-blowing. Once again, it's hard to describe in words, and I don't wanna spoil everything. Briefly, let's say that the movie is filled with scenes where real unusual things happen. The finale, in particular, is riveting. On the acting side, the cast is very good. Many actors are nobodies, but they're good. Familiar faces include fame French filmmaker François Truffaut as... some French guy. I didn't really get what he was, besides an important authority figure. Anyway, the film mostly revolves around Richard Dreyfuss, a very talented actor. He communicates perfectly the enthusiasm of his character. Then there's John Williams' unforgettable score. But in the end, you gotta credit my man Spielberg. His most popular film might be "E.T.", his best film might be "Schindler's List", and his coolest, most exciting flick has got to be "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" if you ask me, but if you really wanna experience Spielberg's sense of wonder, you gotta check out "Close Encounters". Trust me.