Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1973)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Animal Picture, Family-Oriented Adventure  |   Run Time - 114 min.  |   Countries - USA  |   MPAA Rating - G
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Those who want to truly enjoy Jonathan Livingston Seagull are advised to watch it with the mute button firmly pressed. Visually, Seagull is a treat. Jack C. Couffer's cinematography literally soars, creating a giddy feeling that approaches the transcendence that the film so badly wants to be about and to convey. The photography is gorgeously crisp or shimmeringly mystic as required, and the many swoops and swirls give the film an energy and vitality that is dazzling. James Galloway and Frank Keller's sharp, precise editing is also of enormous help visually, complimenting Couffer's work while adding to the dramatic impact. Unfortunately, once one turns the sound on, Seagull drops like a lead balloon. There are some who will appreciate Neil Diamond's bombastic songs, with their drippy lyrics attached to music that is as synthetic as it is emphatic. But it's hard to imagine anyone appreciating the dreadful dialogue that pours forth from the (non-moving) beaks of these poor birds. The story itself is incredibly dated and arch in a 1970s New Age-y manner, but it's the words - both trite and pretentious -- which really makes Seagull such a hard film to sit through. James Franciscus comes off quite poorly as the title character, but that's mainly because he's forced to recite so much of the dialogue. The rest of the cast, having less to say, fares somewhat better.