Jonathan Livingston Seagull

1973, Movie, G, 114 mins

Review

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Truly one of the most boring pictures ever done but with enough attractive photography to merit your brief attention. The book was a runaway success as it preached a philosophy of self-involvement. It does not translate well to the screen, where most of the dialog seems unbearably pretentious and Diamond's monotonous music doesn't help a bit. The actors do a fine job mouthing the words and will probably manage to convince people who are running their engines a quart low. The film uses a cartoon technique with live cinematography that would have been far more effective if less words were spoken. Seagulls in the harbor are battling for fish heads, and their dialog establishes who they are and their feelings about the lives they lead. One of them (Franciscus) hates eating garbage and longs to fly away and see what the world is like on the other side of the horizon. He is a rebellious seagull and is cashiered out of the flock by Holbrook for his anarchistic views. He then flies around the world, dies, and goes to bird heaven where he encounters a female gull (Mills) and a high priest (Ahn) who show him that seagulls are not limited to scavenging. They teach him how to fly like the Red Baron. He returns from the dead to tell the others of his regular flock that there's lots more to do than fight over refuse. Ladd plays Fletcher, a gull with a problem whom Franciscus shows how to loop-the-loop, barrel roll, and do several dangerous moves. Ladd crashes and dies, Franciscus brings him back to life (do you draw the parallel with Lazarus?), and Franciscus is acknowledged by the others as being "the son of the great gull." They now want him to stay and teach them everything he knows, but he decides that there are other gulls who need the benefit of his teachings and so goes flying off to spread the word. Hallelujah. It was around this time that America fell in love with EST and a few other self-help programs, but those had to be experienced in order to derive any benefits. In this film, we never do feel anything more than revulsion at the endless posturing of the dialog and the crude attempts to find Jesus in a seagull. Several lawsuits were filed after the film's release. Ovady Julber claimed that many of the scenes were direct steals from his LA MER. Diamond sued because his music was cut and replaced in a few scenes. Bach sued because he never approved the screenplay and felt they'd cut it too deeply and that his book was not followed. Millions were spent developing all the ancillary products they thought would reap a fortune--Jonathan Livingston Seagull games, napery, T-shirts, patches, pins, shoes, and so forth. When the picture laid an egg, so did the products. Jonathan Livingston Seagull was no Donald Duck. Nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing. leave a comment

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