Tag Archives: Teri Garr

Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977, Steven Spielberg), the director's cut

This version–now called ‘The Director’s Cut’–originally came out as ‘The Collector’s Edition’ maybe ten years ago (maybe less). The most striking thing about this cut is Dreyfuss’s insanity. In this version, he’s totally nuts… Spielberg edits back in (from the original, excised from the Special Edition) a couple significant scenes. First, showing off Roberts Blossom–one of Dreyfuss’s initial peers–as a complete nut, which is a discreet foreshadowing of when–in the second major addition–Dreyfuss goes completely insane.

One of the significant dilemmas of Close Encounters has always been Roy Neary and his being a bad guy. He goes nuts and drives his family away. In this version, Teri Garr’s put-upon wife is even more put-upon. Where Close Encounters enters in to the unreadable is… well, Dreyfuss isn’t nuts. There isn’t a big reveal at the end when the viewer finds out the UFOs are real and all the pain he’s caused and all the pain he’s suffered are–mildly–justified….

The viewer knows all along Dreyfuss is right and Spielberg manages, in the scenes with the Neary family, to remain impartial. If one stops to think about it, obviously Dreyfuss is a monster. But the film shares his wonder with the viewer and his actions, while indefensible, are completely understandable.

There’s also a lot more ominousness in this version. When Cary Guffey gets taken, it seems a lot scarier, but not for any reasons of addition or subtraction. This echoes at the end, with the silent entrance of the mothership.

The additional scenes give Teri Garr more of an onscreen presence and she’s really great. Melinda Dillon, I probably said it in the Special Edition post, also great. I noticed Truffaut a lot this time too–I don’t think he’s got any extra scenes, but he’s so effective in the last act, it’s a perfect use of him. I’m not sure if Spielberg necessarily got a great performance out of him or just cast him perfectly.

As for Spielberg’s removal of the mothership interior… it really doesn’t change the end result. Close Encounters is on such firm ground, the mothership interior is just a matter of preference….

For example, I’m not actually sure if this cut is better than the special edition.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Steven Spielberg; director of photography, Vilmos Zsigmond; edited by Michael Kahn; music by John Williams; production designer, Joe Alves; produced by Julia Phillips and Michael Phillips; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Richard Dreyfuss (Roy Neary), François Truffaut (Claude Lacombe), Teri Garr (Ronnie Neary), Melinda Dillon (Gillian Guiler), Bob Balaban (David Laughlin), J. Patrick McNamara (Project Leader), Warren J. Kemmerling (Wild Bill), Roberts Blossom (Farmer), Philip Dodds (Jean Claude), Cary Guffey (Barry Guiler), Shawn Bishop (Brad Neary), Adrienne Campbell (Sylvia Neary) and Justin Dreyfuss (Toby Neary).


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Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977, Steven Spielberg), the special edition

I don’t know where to start with Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The jokey open would be something about listing the defects and not having any, but then flipping it and not being able to list everything Spielberg does right because his successes are so difficult to work out, particularly in to an easy-to-read, bullet-pointed list. Spielberg makes strange narrative choices in Close Encounters–to a point of confusion regarding the main storyline of the film… is it Richard Dreyfuss and his personal involvement or is it Francois Truffaut and his official involvement? While Dreyfuss probably has more screen time, quite a bit of that time is spent in expository scenes–introducing the UFOs to the audience, showing the experience of those affected–and then the ending is mostly told from the official point of view. But it never feels funny; Spielberg slaps the two stories together and makes it work–even after, at least for the first two-thirds of the film, it becomes clear we aren’t following Dreyfuss because he’s unique in his experience or even his dedication. Instead, we’re following Dreyfuss because there’s something… I can’t resist… important about his particular experience. It’s something to take a loving family man and remove those components and make him… I don’t know the word. Sympathetic isn’t right, heroic isn’t right. If there’s a word for undeniably correct, that one would be it.

The end of the film–I find it odd it takes place over such a short period of time… the last hour takes place over a day and the first hour probably only a few weeks (something about the readiness of the international response makes it feel like it happens every day)–doesn’t exactly belong somewhere else (it’s a natural conclusion to the story) but there’s an aesthetic beauty to it, a sense of absolute wonderment, missing from the earlier encounter scenes. By the end credits shots of the ship going through space, Spielberg overflows the viewer’s imagination. He shuts it down with too much stimuli, too much possibility–to the point, one can do nothing but sit back and let the film do its work.

Part of–I guess I’ll get to it now–Spielberg’s success, in the 1970s, in his first three films, has to do with his approach to people and how they interact with other people. Sugarland, Jaws, Close Encounters–all of them are visually distinctive in how Spielberg shoots people together at home… People spend time together and, especially in Close Encounters, that time spent is more important to the character than it is to the film. Spielberg shows us people in fantastic situations who are still regular people and it endears them quite significantly. He also has that style to the scenes, deep focus, the composition of the shots, the editing. It’s craftsmanship he seems to have forgotten.

It’s also very big–Close Encounters is very big. The ideas in it are very big and here’s the big change in Spielberg, this film being the best example. Very much like Soderbergh does today, Spielberg used to play to a hypothetical audience–and in Close Encounters, he doesn’t worry about anything. And now all he does is worry….

Have I already said glib in this post? No, it’s the first time. Yay. Close Encounters is Spielberg’s best film and, while watching it, it became acutely obvious how good a filmmaker made this film. At times it reminds of Kane and–nothing specific obviously–I never, even when he’s good or great, tend of Spielberg in those artistic terms… but with Close Encounters, I certainly do.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Steven Spielberg; director of photography, Vilmos Zsigmond; edited by Michael Kahn; music by John Williams; production designer, Joe Alves; produced by Julia Phillips and Michael Phillips; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Richard Dreyfuss (Roy Neary), François Truffaut (Claude Lacombe), Teri Garr (Ronnie Neary), Melinda Dillon (Gillian Guiler), Bob Balaban (David Laughlin), J. Patrick McNamara (Project Leader), Warren J. Kemmerling (Wild Bill), Roberts Blossom (Farmer), Philip Dodds (Jean Claude), Cary Guffey (Barry Guiler), Shawn Bishop (Brad Neary), Adrienne Campbell (Sylvia Neary) and Justin Dreyfuss (Toby Neary).


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Dick (1999, Andrew Fleming)

Andrew Fleming’s Dick has an irresistible premise (slow-witted teenage girls take down Nixon, not Woodward and Bernstein), but it turns out not to be enough for a movie. Not even a ninety-four minute movie. Besides inspired casting of Watergate figures (Dave Foley as Haldeman is probably my favorite, but Saul Rubinek’s Kissinger is the best–and Dan Hedaya’s a perfect Nixon), Fleming doesn’t really know what to do with his story. He covers some of the Watergate stuff, but not enough. He dumbs down the revelation of evidence and so on, not really taking advantage of it for his story. Once he’s established Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams in the White House, he does a couple montages and throws in Williams’s positively icky on Nixon, but the movie’s mostly on its way toward the end. Neither Dunst or Williams really have characters–which is fine, given Dick is a farcical comedy–but Fleming doesn’t have ninety-four minutes of story either.

Dick gets long after a while, once the laughing out loud stops–usually whenever Dunst and Williams are in charge of their scenes, instead of Foley, Hedeya, or Rubinek–and I don’t think there’s a single big laugh for the film’s last hour. There’s a good Foley scene, but it’s amusing, not laugh out loud. Given the lousy pacing of that last hour, I wonder if Fleming cut some stuff out to make the movie shorter, but I doubt it. Kirsten Dunst’s character doesn’t have a story, she has a brother. Devon Gummersall, as the brother, is good. Except he’s just a funny pot-head and the film’s better when he’s around because he says funny pot-head stuff. Dunst ranges from awful to bad. She’s worse when she’s alone. Michelle Williams, halfway through, goes from dumb to not-so dumb and she’s fine in the second half. The contrast between her and Dusnt’s acting prowess is stunning. One also gets the feeling Williams heard the word ‘Watergate’ before filming the movie.

We rented Dick because a) we’d just watched All the President’s Men and b) I thought it was funnier. I remembered it being funnier. But it isn’t. The film only makes it through the second half because of Hedeya, Williams, and Will Ferrell and Bruce McCulloch as Woodward and Bernstein (Bernstein’s such a jackass I wonder if Fleming consulted with Nora Ephron). The film also benefits–more than it deserves–from the great use of the 1970s music. The end is–as I remembered while watching it–a real kicker set to Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain.”

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Andrew Fleming; written by Fleming and Sheryl Longin; director of photography, Alexander Gruszynski; edited by Mia Goldman; music by John Debney; production designer, Barbara Dunphy; produced by Gale Anne Hurd; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Kirsten Dunst (Betsy Jobs), Michelle Williams (Arlene Lorenzo), Jim Breuer (John Dean), Will Ferrell (Bob Woodward), Dave Foley (Bob Haldeman), Teri Garr (Helen Lorenzo), Ana Gasteyer (Rose Mary Woods), Devon Gummersall (Larry Jobs), Dan Hedaya (Dick), Bruce McCulloch (Carl Bernstein), Ted McGinley (Roderick), Ryan Reynolds (Chip), Saul Rubinek (Henry Kissinger), Harry Shearer (G. Gordon Liddy), Len Doncheff (Leonid I. Brezhnev), G.D. Spradlin (Ben Bradlee) and Checkers (Brunswick).


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