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  • I saw this one in '71 in a small theatre in Tallahassee, FL while attending FSU (a time before people started attending football games in Tallahassee!).

    It was great, as I recall. A film about love, loss, and self-discovery filmed in NY.

    I have asked numerous poeple over the years if they ever saw or heard of "Pigeons"......not a soul! This is actually the first time I have seen the film listed or mentioned anywhere since then. I was beginning to wonder if I had dreamed the movie! What a relief!

    If you get a chance, check it out ........ it's definitely worth the time and effort.
  • This offbeat 1970 NY-set character study resembles its central character too closely and is therefore something of a cop-out. Jonathan (Jordan ANGEL, ANGEL DOWN WE GO Christopher) is a lazy Princeton graduate who earns what he describes as 'an easy living' driving a NY taxi 'Because I want to show the world the back of my neck'. Together with his frustrated virginal ex-army pal Winston (Robert Walden), he lives an aimless existence disinterestedly weaving his cab through the often traffic-clogged city streets, drifting through loveless and seemingly joyless no-strings sexual encounters and occasionally chasing pigeons before embarking on a tentative relationship with his new neighbour, college drop-out Jennifer (Jill O'Hara, in her only film appearance) who - in counterculture era drop-out fashion - is trying to find herself. But can Jonathan discover true happiness in his own backyard or is he destined to forever fly free like the pigeons he casts sidelong glances at and occasionally tries to kick? Although this ticks many of the early 70s cinema boxes (there are the obligatory party scenes, generation-gap themes, swishy kaftan-wearing homosexuals, casual sexual encounters, characters bonding during a rooftop pot-smoking session, grungy wintry locations, ghastly woozy love songs warbling away on the soundtrack, a self-loathing misanthropic anti-hero and even a somewhat out-of-place car chase), the sum of the parts don't ultimately add up to a particularly satisfying whole. This is due in no small part to its smug central character whose inner monologues tend to resemble a series of clichéd and generally unfunny observations (e.g. 'It's OK to be homely, lady, but you're abusing the privilege' - which is one of the better zingers on offer) and whose selfish behaviour is most likely inherited (he has a similarly solipsistic mother still pining for her late husband and a lecherous and unfeeling stepfather) but don't really give the film the emotional or dramatic heft of the same year's far superior FIVE EASY PIECES. However, there are a few residual pleasures in those grungy wintry Big Apple locations, a catchy electronic central theme and the window cracked open on a vanished era that may have mostly existed through the refracted lens of a movie camera rather than in actuality. And it's a real obscurity that seems to have virtually vanished following its original release in its longer-titled full-length form and subsequent re-release in the retitled and abridged (86 minutes) form as PIGEONS that I viewed thanks to its apparent one-off appearance on UK TV in the mid-90s. The current scarcity factor alone makes it a must for 'Cinema Obscura' buffs.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I've only seen the supposed re-released, re-titles, shortened version of the original release. I would love to find out if the unedited version exists. Regardless, the version that I watched was surprisingly good and offers a unique insight into that critical era of malaise between Altamont and Disco. A period that is often forgotten, as it was bookended by the two much more memorable eras. This is not to say that Pigeons is the only example of this era. More noteworthy are Five Easy Pieces, Midnight Cowboy, Panic in Needle Park, and Last Picture Show.

    Many books have covered this subject in depth, such as A Cinema of Loneliness by Robert Kolker and Lost Illusions: American Cinema in the Shadow of Watergate and Vietnam by David A. Cook.

    What I particularly like about Pigeons is that the protagonists are mid-20s New Yorkers. As expected, they are aimless and alienated. The film reflects the emotional zeitgeist that took hold in America.

    What is particularly interesting to me is the hindsight that disco, fern bars, swinging singles, and the pinnacle of the sexual revolution was lying dormant, ready to explode, wiping away any trace of this malaise. One character is the 24-year-old virgin. Sad as that may be in 1970, his love-life will significantly change once 1973 rolls around.

    The movie is chock full of wonderful period set pieces. There is the groovy party, the not so groovy party, the falling-in-love montage, slow-mo joyful Central Park mischief, the intimate dope-smoking session, and even a set piece on petty larceny, similar to the shoplifting sequence in Breakfast at Tiffany's. That alone is going to be worth the price of admission for any passionate early 70s movie fans.

    Many of these elements and other classic movie clichés are extremely fulfilling, and in many ways surpass similar sequences in other films. Notable is the groovy party sequence, which is not rushed, but shows the slow build of the party's energy. It features a large number of gay characters. While stereotyped by necessity, it gives the party an honest, mixed gathering. In that sense Pigeons surpasses the more constrained groovy party sequences in Breakfast at Tiffany's and Midnight Cowboy.

    A fine example that should be added to the early 70s alienation films cannon.
  • Among all the youth movies that came out and flopped in the very early 70s (of course we tend to only remember the few that succeeded), this one is actually pretty decent. Though you can see why MGM dumped it after some poor test screenings-it probably would have been a commercial nonstarter, too. (Unfortunately, the 20 minutes or so that MGM cut from it seem to be permanently lost, as the current Blu-ray/DVD distributor normally puts out movies as fully restored as they can be.) It's full of talent that didn't get any further in movies (the leads, the director), supporting players at the start of long careers (notably Robert Walden as the hero's roommate/sidekick), NYC scenesters (like Pat Ast) and Broadway recruits (Elaine Stritch, Melba Moore).

    Ex-near-pop-star Jordan Christopher, in the last of his three leads in offbeat movies that flopped (the others being obscure drama "The Tree" and AIP psychedelic oddity "Angel, Angel, Down We Go") is Jonathan, a cynical, rudderless young Manhattan taxi driver, sharing an apartment with still-virginal buddy Walden (who probably gives the most appealing performance here). Various women throw themselves at our handsome hero, but for whatever reason he reluctantly lets himself get sorta-involved only with Jill O"Hara (who'd been in the stage musicals "Promises Promises" and "George M!"). She's Jennifer, a downstairs neighbor who is letting her parents support her for a year so she can "find herself" (even she puts arch quote marks around that phrase).

    Anyway, not a lot happens-the two guys go to a mostly-gay party (portrayed with a wee bit of condescension, though the movie's attitude is actually pretty open-minded and blase for movies at the time); the romance grows; the three hang out as friends. Finally hero and girlfriend go to his parents' for Christmas, which turns out to be a huge mistake because they (Kate Reid, William Redfield) are the very picture of squabbling suburban banality-which drags the film into more cartoonishly familiar anti-Establishment territory.

    The British director had previously made a good antiwar period piece ("The Virgin Soldiers"), then later made an earnest sex-change drama ("I Want What I Want"), neither of which were hits--nor was this, his sole U.S. feature. So he went back to a very successful stage career. "Pigeons" has more a slightly more authentic tenor until most movies of its ilk, at least until it heads to suburbia and turns into sort of a sitcom, retreading the same shrill "satire" of middle-American complacency as in every other movie at that time.

    I guess the problem here is that as likable as the performers and the filmmaking is, there's ultimately too little too root for here: Jonathan is just one more early 70s antihero expressing a vague discontent with everyone around him. But aside from being better-looking (of course he is--he's the star here!), he's no better than they are, nor does he have any notable intellect, aspirations or talents to make him special. He's merely petulant. "Pigeons" is just good enough that, ultimately, it arrives at the same conclusion: That Jonathan's only real problem is he won't accept he's a fallible, ordinary human like everyone else. It's an open narrative ending that is nice in that it proves the film won't settle for any pat message. But it also underlines the film's own problem, which is that finally we really don't give a crap what Jonathan does or doesn't do with his life. He's made things complicated for himself without being a complicated enough personality to justify it. The movie wants to present him as a free spirit, but we suspect he's just a poser.

    This is the kind of loose, am-I-gonna-get-my-groovy-head-together-or-not non-story that was typical of a lot of hip literature at the time. Indeed, the movie was based on a very short, well-received novel by David Boyer that seems to be hard to find now. Whether it's a holdover from the source novel or was pasted on to make up for the cut scenes, the film has that annoying device of the hero commenting in smug, unnecessary voiceover on his own actions. (And his flat quips seem to have been recorded in an echo chamber, making them even flatter.) Yet despite that irritating aspect, and the film's lack of much narrative drive, "Pigeons" still deserves more recognition than it's gotten (i.e. almost none). While no buried treasure, it's aged better than a fair number of films that were far more widely distributed at the time.

    Supposedly Sylvester Stallone appears as an extra in a party scene, but I didn't spot him.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Are the pigeons supposed to be a metaphor here, referring to the millions of people zooming around New York City as those messy birds whose aim while in trees we try to avoid? The opening scene with Jordan Christopher and a rather strange friend commenting on an old woman feeding these annoying bobble-headed birds then attacking them with kicks after they leave is really the only time you see pigeons. The rest of the time in this wretched and seemingly drug induced drama is spent with Jones dealing with the strange people in his life, whether it be the women who are out to seduce him, his overly neurotic mother, a virginal best friend, or the effeminate gay man who invites him to a party filled with New York's most eccentric residents.

    It is at that party that you see legendary theater star Elaine Stritch telling stories, getting drunker and drunker, and finally passing out. I wonder if she was even assigned to do this film, simply playing herself unaware that she was being filmed for a movie, then really passing out as the party got wilder and wilder. It's a sad treatment of the wonderful performer who had finally hit her stride and was moving into living legend in the Broadway smash hit "Company". Also at the party as one of the guests who is quickly flashed on is Melba Moore who at the time was winning fame in another Broadway hit, "Purlie".

    A relic from the days of psychedelic L.S.D. induced movie visuals which today don't hold up. Another Broadway actress, Jill O'Hara ("Promises, Promises") is his somewhat mixed-up girlfriend Jennifer, whom Christopher invites over to his parents for Christmas. Kate Reid and William Redfield are the parents who obviously can't stand each other, and it's pretty apparent that Christopher hates his mother most justifiably. "With parents like us, it's surprising that he's not with a boy", Redfield caustically tells Reid. Then, there's Lois Nettleton as one of Christopher's cab customers who makes a play for him, and ends up playing more with his mind than with his body.

    Some good early 70's New York location shots give a rough around the edges look to the film, particularly a police chase sequence on the Westside Highway that shows obviously what's still there and what is long gone. But minimal great location footage does not make a good movie, and this is as far from even being remotely tolerable. A lot of sequences don't make any sense, especially one where Christopher and Haworth steal a bunch of salt and pepper shakers and start passing them out randomly on the streets to bewildered strangers. Save yourself 90 precious minutes of your life and avoid at all costs.