Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Everything Wrong With Hollywood Cinema in a Nutshell

Director: Steven Spielberg
Music composed by: John Williams
Box office: $303.8 million
Awards: Academy Award for Best Cinematography


When PBS shows The Lady from Shanghai they preface it with a five minute segment featuring a film historian who gives you some historical context for the film. He or she explains where Orson Welles was in his career, highlight some important parts of the film, and explain how the ending house of mirrors sequence influenced french new wave directors, maybe sharing some quotes from them talking about its importance. Does revealing the climatic finale “spoil” the movie? Is PBS indicative of al that is wrong with Hollywood cinema? Of course not. Part of the joy of watching classics is that you get to see their place in history and recognize where they drew inspiration and how they influenced.

Close Encounters is a classic. It’s forty years old, ten years older than Lady from Shanghai was when it came out. Its Spielberg at his creative height and it clearly has had a big influence on film makers of today. Now like I said I haven’t seen this opening so maybe it is as offensive as you claim but there is no reason it shouldn’t get the same sort of glowing contextualization that we have traditionally provided for reshowings of other historic films of its caliber.

As an aside, I don’t think Close Encounters is capable of being “spoiled” and if it was it would have already been spoiled by the culture in general. I know that when I got the chance to watch close encounters for the first time I had already seen Homer Simpson make a sculpture out of his mash potatoes and that throughout the movie different scenes were making me go, “oh yeah Mupets in Space.” It does not matter if you know exactly whats going to happen Close Encounters has the power to transport you into its world and keep you on the edge of your seat.

One last thing. I couldn’t find the PBS intro from Close Encounters but here’s the promo for the showing. It has the money shot of the spaceship flying over Devils Tower.