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on 12 February 2001
A masterpiece for the entire family. A chronicle of one individual's odyssey from disillusionment into self-realization as experienced through the eyes of a wanton seagull. "Jonathan" captures your imagination through the deft and passionate attention to detail which the director applies to this film. Along with an incredible and timeless soundtrack by Neil Diamond, the impression this movie left on me continues even now some 12 years hence. It's more than a simple story and yet it is the SIMPLICITY which conveys not only insight into our humanity but also great beauty. The beauty of Jonathan.
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on 27 October 2016
a very good dvd and music by neil diamong is great and a advenyure story
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on 16 April 2017
the picture and sound quality was very bad ... but the story still good
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on 12 January 2017
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on 29 November 2006
At long last, Jonathan Livingston Seagull (JLS) is available on DVD - and about time too. Originally released in 1973, you'd have thought that with songs by Neil Diamond, superb orchestrations by Lee Holdridge and spectacular cinematography by Jack Couffer ASC, the film would have been a sure-fire hit. Unfortunately, it failed to take flight at the box office (if you'll excuse the pun) and was mauled by the critics - not that it stopped the public from buying the album by the bucket-load (it went Gold on 30 October 1973 and Multi-Platinum on 21 November 1986). Janet Maslin in Rolling Stone thought the score `better-than-average', although she couldn't resist adding that `most film soundtracks are a priori the most average-sounding music to be found anywhere', thereby exhibiting the slightly superior attitude towards film music still, unfortunately, found in some quarters even today. Naturally enough she also took a pot shot at `Diamond's aggressively arty lyrics', the 110-strong orchestra and the album cover itself - in her view, `a mind-boggling landmark in packaging pretension'. As Neil Diamond album covers go it's actually rather good (one can only conclude she'd forgotten the truly gruesome cover of Velvet Gloves and Spit) and let's be honest, you could get away with this sort of thing in the early 1970s. The `summer of love' was a recent, not a distant memory and a certain pseudo-philosophical, hippy, `new-age' artiness was all the rage.

In fact, the songs by Neil Diamond and the score, brilliantly arranged and orchestrated by Lee Holdridge, come together to form that rare beast: a soundtrack which complements the film whilst standing up perfectly well as a work in its own right. This is extremely hard to pull off and few songwriters or composers manage to achieve it (Leonard Bernstein's `On the Waterfront' suite is perhaps the pre-eminent example of the film score as concert work). It was unfortunate that the film became mired in legal disputes. Richard Bach, author of the cult book on which the film was based, sued the producers on the basis that the screenplay deviated too greatly from his original work; Neil Diamond sued, on the grounds that some of his music had been replaced without his consent; only the seagulls didn't sue (they said they were perfectly happy with the end product) but this shouldn't have coloured anyone's appreciation of the music, which, let's be honest, is really rather good. If Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein and Aaron Copland had all gotten together to write an opera about seagulls it might have sounded something like this (although, how they would have staged it at the Met is anyone's guess).

The prologue is a perfect example of how to score the opening of a film. Lee Holdridge achieved the same effect with that miraculous opening to Neil Diamond's best live album, `Hot August Night'. On first hearing, you could be forgiven for thinking it was a recording of genteel chamber music by the Endellion String Quartet - it's the very opposite of what you'd expect to open a rock concert, but that slow build-up from just a few stringed instruments to a tremendous explosion of sound is just about the most exciting opening to a live album that you're ever likely to hear. A similar effect is achieved with the prologue to JLS; although it's not followed, you may be relieved to learn, by one of the seagulls breaking into a rendition of Crunchy Granola Suite.

It's not just the music for JLS which is outstanding: the cinematography is breathtaking, particularly when you consider that the film was made in the pre-CGI era. We've all become accustomed to seeing spectacular wildlife photography on our television screens in programmes such as Planet Earth, but some of the sequences in JLS are a match for anything the BBC has to offer. The philosophy of JLS may seem simple-minded to some, but it will appeal to anyone who's felt the urge to rise above the dull conformity of everyday existence - not necessarily by flying higher than anyone else. It may also come as a relief to many to watch a film which doesn't consist almost entirely of over-the-top special effects, extraneous and irrelevant action sequences or people driving Smart cars very quickly.

Watching JLS again after so many years, it seems a shame that the critics strangled the film at birth and a pity that Neil Diamond and Lee Holdridge never worked together again. They clearly had a great musical affinity, as the former attested in an interview in 1971 in which he described the composer / conductor as `super-talented', adding that `we think alike in many ways ... we identify with the songs similarly'. However, after JLS, Lee Holdridge went on (and continues) to enjoy a highly successful career as a composer for both film and television. Several of his scores are available on CD, as are some of his classical compositions. Unforgivably, the score failed to secure even a nomination for an Academy Award (although it was nominated in the best cinematography and best film editing categories) but at least Neil Diamond picked up a Grammy and a Golden Globe for JLS and rightly so - the film features some of his best songs.

Sadly, there are no extras or `making of' features on this DVD. This is a pity - it would have been interesting, for example, to find out how the seagull who played Jonathan (a consummate method actor if ever there was one) approached the role. We shall never know. That aside, the DVD is definitely worth watching. So, forget the critics and just sit back and soar with the seagulls - you may be pleasantly surprised.
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I saw this classic film at the cinema when it came out and found it truly astounding, a true cinematic experience. I can't think of another film that is anything like it, it is truly unique. I loved the soundtrack too, but I only bought Neil Diamond's single "Be" at the time; although I've had the soundtrack CD for years as well now. I recorded the film from the TV onto Betamax video in the early '80s, but I haven't been able to watch it for years through lack of a player!! I don't know if it has been shown on TV again in the recent past, but I've always missed it if it has.

It was also a film I tried for years to find on DVD, but always without success - even when looking all around the world. So I was very pleasantly surprised recently, when I thought about the film again, to find that it had finally been issued on DVD - and quite a while ago too.

Although a child of it's time, and although it does loose a bit of scale on the small screen, it is still a magical experience. Old Hippies everywhere will love it.

It's a shame, in a way, that there is not a Bonus Feature in sight, but then again these may just have spoilt the illusion by making the experience too real! Buy it and fly!!
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on 28 September 2000
Although now slightly dated with the Neil Diamond soundtrack(!) This however is a great portrayal of the philosophy of Richard Bach. This man has dramatically changed my life. I first started reading Mr. Bach when I was eighteen and although I have moved on from some of his more radical views. I have spent the last twelve years with the feeling that I am special and the world is fantastic. Quite an achievement. There is a bit of Jonathan in all of us. If you are lucky enough to be touched by this film and these ideas, and the world has not yet tainted you too much. It is an experience that will never leave you. happy landings
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on 26 October 2009
This is a brilliantly filmed story of life beyond our shoreline as we all see it now.

Jonathan is used as a means to explaining what life is about now through his short visit and experiences including when we all return home to the other to the other side.

Neil Diamond put his whole soul and being into this film and it well worth seeing as it will open many folks eyes and at the very least get them thinking.

Certainly you will always remember having watched it and some of the music and words will ring in your mind and ears until each of you return home from where you also came.

John Morris.
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on 6 January 2011
Thanks to God I finally could see this film again. In Czechoslovakia was this film many, many years before, only in club cinemas. Also there was a book released here. But the film came never again to cinemas. It is excellent story. Warning!! This film is not for friends of Chuch Noris.
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on 5 July 2010
This film is just amazing, I first saw it way back when it was made and had an old VHS copy from a television broadcast. It is a wonderfully made film with an amazing soundtrack but more importantly a fantastic story told in a very novel way, it's awe inspiring and full of food for thought. I would recommend it to anyone but in particular those who may be asking questions of themselves in life. Jonathan Livington Seagull
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