In a Chilean little town, the son of an uprooted couple, formed by a rigorous communist father and a loving but weak mother, tries to pave his own path in a society that does not understand their Jewish-Ukrainian origins.
A former circus artist escapes from a mental hospital to rejoin his armless mother - the leader of a strange religious cult - and is forced to enact brutal murders in her name as he becomes "her arms".
Being a fan of both Peter O'Toole and Omar Sharif, I had seen the film before, but I never much liked it. Maybe it has something to do with the general unlikability of all the characters. The only really fun part is Christopher Lee's big scene early on. That's worth seeing at least once for the sheer craziness of it.
When I re-watched the film recently, I still couldn't much like it as a whole, and I couldn't shake off the feeling that Peter O'Toole was in it solely because he had signed a contract and couldn't get out of it. He plays his part, but his heart doesn't seem to be in it. I can't say that I blame him. His part is a rotten one. For his fans, this film is likely to be a disappointment.
But I was struck by Sharif's performance. He owns the film! Right from the beginning his acting is amazing - some of it is almost the stuff of pantomime. What a strange part this is for him, and how wonderful he is in it. And what a great actor he was when he got a chance to show it. A pity that he didn't get parts like this earlier on in his career instead of the playboys and infatuated lovers he played in so many big budget productions.
No, it's not a great film. Not one of Jodorowsky's better ones. But it may be worth watching for the delightful performance of Omar Sharif. If you don't go into it with high expectations, and you don't expect a plot that makes sense (there is none), you might actually enjoy it.
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