Jonathan Livingston Seagull

Movie Information

The Hendersonville Film Society will show Jonathan Livingston Seagull at 2 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 27, in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community, 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville. (From Asheville, take I-26 to U.S. 64 West, turn right at the third light onto Thompson Street. Follow to the Lake Point Landing entrance and park in the lot on the left.)
Score:

Genre: Allegorical Seagull Adventure
Director: Hall Bartlett
Starring: James Franciscus, Richard Crenna, Kelly Harmon, Philip Ahn
Rated: G

I think this 1973 film of the über-popular 1970 book by Richard Bach exists solely to prove to me that not everything about the era of the 1960s (which extends into the first half of the ‘70s as a mindset) had even passing value. When I think of the time, my mind gravitates toward the Beatles and the British Invasion, the films of Richard Lester, Roman Polanski, Ken Russell, the very idea that art was transforming itself and that “we” (the then-younger generation) were starting to question what we were supposed to accept as a matter of course. I tend to forget that it was also the era of Rod McKuen, the “Desiderata” and this pseudo-religious self-awareness drivel. Yeah, it’s actually part and parcel of that questioning-authority business, but it’s also just chock full of smug, humorless preachiness—not to mention an indefensibly high quotient of Neil Diamond songs. (In all fairness, Diamond and this movie deserve each other.)

The whole idiotic business of romanticizing this scavenger bird and turning it into a cockeyed messiah was specious then and it hasn’t improved with age (remember when Barbara Hershey accidentally killed a seagull on a movie shoot and felt compelled to change her name to Barbara Seagull before she regained her faculties?). It’s the cinematic and philosophical equivalent of that ditsy girl you might have met circa 1973 who insisted that the dog that just evacuated his bowels on your sidewalk was “expressing his creativity.” Worse, since Bach’s slim book was so slim, the movie variant of it plods along at a funereal pace—you get 15 minutes of sea and gull footage before James Franciscus’ breathlessly silly voice-overs kick in with the “plot.” For whatever benighted reason, the Hendersonville Film Society has brought it back. I like to support local film showings, but I can’t say I’d recommend this—one of the few movies Roger Ebert ever admitted to walking out on.

SHARE
About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

9 thoughts on “Jonathan Livingston Seagull

  1. Hanke, I trust your tastes in film, but you leave Neil Diamond out of this. His music is every bit as revered as the words of Abraham Lincoln in my house.

  2. Ken Hanke

    Jason, in all honesty, I tend to respect your musical taste — it has the value of being original and fresh and your own — but Mr. Diamond just ain’t on my list.

  3. brebro

    “an indefensibly high quotient of Neil Diamond songs.”

    Are you saying that all those songs sung, blew?

    Well, everybody knows one.

  4. Ken Hanke

    “Are you saying that all those songs sung, blew?

    Well, everybody knows one.”

    That was admirably low. Wish I’d thought of it.

  5. Ken Hanke

    “Neil Diamond is the Jewish Elvis and demands the appropriate respect.”

    Well, that’s what he gets for that third version of THE JAZZ SINGER.

  6. TonyRo

    I’m not an idiot when it comes to movie history (read: useless trivia) by any means, but I had no idea at all they made a movie of this book. Let alone with the involvement of Neil Diamond. I need to check it out.

  7. Ken Hanke

    They do say that ignorance is bliss.

    To me, the most amazing thing about the film — in those pre-CGI days — was its ability to manage to avoid any shot in which one of the…uh…characters was relieving itself.

  8. “I’m not an idiot when it comes to movie history (read: useless trivia) by any means, but I had no idea at all they made a movie of this book. Let alone with the involvement of Neil Diamond. I need to check it out.”

    If you want to shop local (hint hint), we will have this in by the weekend.

    marc

Leave a Reply