This weekend I popped in on Turner Classic Movie’s 30 Days of Oscar and caught the last 15 minutes of Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Have you seen it lately? If not, put it in your queue. It holds up amazingly well. This scene of the scientists trying to communicate with the space ship via music and light is simply genius. (Note toward the end the homage to Jaws.)
A little bit of film history adds an additional layer to the ending. Richard Dreyfus — who looks a lot like Spielberg — stands to the front with all these scientists and military-industrial types who have prepared their whole lives for this moment. He is the outsider who has had to fight every step of the way just to get where he is. But in the end he’s the only one chosen by the aliens to go with them. The lead scientist tells him "I envy you."
That character is played by none other than legendary French filmmaker Francois Truffault, one of the founders of the French New Wave movement that revolutionized international cinema in the 1960s. And with that simple line, Spielberg effectively writes himself into film history, positioning himself as the scrappy next wave to whom the torch is passed from one of the great innovators of the last. For such a young director, using such an unusual vehicle, it's quite a bold choice.
Even more remarkable, he’s pulled it off.
Definitely worth a look.
Jim McDermott, S.J.