In 1839, the revolt of Mende captives aboard a Spanish owned ship causes a major controversy in the United States when the ship is captured off the coast of Long Island. The courts must decide whether the Mende are slaves or legally free.
Two parallel stories are told. In the first, a group of research scientists from a variety of backgrounds are investigating the strange appearance of items in remote locations, primarily desert regions. In continuing their investigation, one of the lead scientists, a Frenchman named Claude Lacombe, incorporates the Kodály method of music education as a means of communication in their work. The response, in turn, at first baffles the researchers, until American cartographer David Laughlin deciphers the meaning of the response. In the second, electric company lineman and family man Roy Neary and single mother Jillian Guiler are among some individuals in Muncie, Indiana who experience some paranormal activity before some flashes of bright lights in the sky, which they believe to be a UFO. Roy becomes obsessed with what he saw, unlike some others, especially in some form of authority, who refuse to acknowledge their belief that it was a UFO in not wanting to appear crazy. That obsession ... Written by
In the first scene in the desert, although it appears to be around noon at the beginning, by the end of the scene the sun is clearly on the horizon and setting, even though only a short amount of script-time has passed. See more »
When I saw this first in the theatre I was blown away. It affected me profoundly. I thought the whole concept was fresh and new, the family strife, the yearning for and then actively seeking a higher concept for one's life, the mental breakdown of the main character as he tries to visualize what's inside his head: messages from alien beings.
Richard Dreyfus, Francois Truffaut, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon, all perfectly cast. Along with Cary, the child actor who is brilliant.
As a microcosm of life in the seventies, the film is amazingly evocative, the perfect young family suburb, the children, the stay at home wife, the backyard barbecues. The husband who is a dreamer and when he starts to act it out, shatters this perfect home life.
Then the action moves to the mountain where the aliens are preparing to land. This scene got me in the theatre and gets me now. It is highly emotional. The music, the lights, the response of the mother ship. Highly charged cinematic moments.
However, and it is a big one. The transition of Richard Dreyfuss's character is far too sudden, he turns his back on children he obviously adores without any reflection whatsoever. How on earth would they survive in a seventies world without his income? Also Bob Balaban and Richard Dreyfuss are almost twin like in appearance and I kept getting them mixed up.
Francois Truffaut gave a fine performance as did many of the minor players. And the special affects - way before modern CGI - are breathtaking for their time.
Sometimes one is better leaving a movie seen in a theatre on its release exactly there: a one time viewing only. Seeing it for a second time removes the wonder and awe of that first viewing.
I would have given it a 9 the first time, this time a 6 so I calculated a 7 out of 10 to be fair.
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