Jonathan Livingston Seagull is perhaps the iconic American 70’s film. Made in 1973, this film, directed by Hall Bartlett, is a soaring triumph of both the film styles of the era and of storytelling in general. Nominated for two Academy Awards, this groundbreaking film is now available on DVD.

What is it about Jonathan Livingston Seagull which makes it so special? The first thing is that the entire film score was written and sung by Neil Diamond the artist before he became Neil Diamond the legend. That score won both a Grammy and a Golden Globe award. Another is that it is based upon the bestselling novel of the same name by Richard Bach. The film version features the incredible vocal talents of James Franciscus, Juliet Mills, and Hal Holbrook.

Another reason which makes the film so noteworthy is the cinematographic work, all those long shots and long zooms, those overwhelmingly panoramic scenes. Not only that, but this is a movie without barely a human trace in it. Aside from a few scenes in a garbage dump and one tireless bulldozer alone in that dump, this movie is nothing but animals and their natural environment. That animals could be made to do much of what Jonathan Livingston Seagull does is nothing short of dramatically breathtaking. Scene after scene of solitary flight over ocean and mountain and snow does become rather tedious after about an hour into the film, but it is an error which can be forgiven.

The final reason the film is the masterpiece it is would be the story itself, a whirling and inspirational tale of of reaching for one’s dreams and finding a way to continue in the face of cultural skepticism. Jonathan Livingston Seagull illustrates our own xenophobia and resistance to change, while presenting hope for us at the same time. At the end, he morphs into a sort of Christ figure, something the previous parts of the movie don’t really set up or even support. One can only suppose that there was something dropped when moving from page to screen. Regardless, this is a fantastic film.

Seagull soars to new cinematic heights, taking us all on a worthwhile and refreshing journey.

This DVD can be purchased at Amazon.com.

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