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".
while only director, it still is, and feels, looks and sounds like, a Jodorowsky film, a very good one
How criminal is this - the only format that has *ever* been available for The Rainbow Thief in America is on VHS. Imagine this, a film starring Omar Sharif, Peter O'Toole and Christopher Lee, regardless of who directed it (though in this case the iconoclast/cult-icon Alejandro Jodorowsky), never got released in *theaters* let alone as of late on DVD. It's not that one must see it because it's a great lost masterpiece and yada-yada. It actually isn't. It's not as great a film as Jodorowsky's own Santa Sangre or The Holy Mountain. But as far as projects go that have been neglected by a major studio, Warner Brothers, this is one of the most notable to my mind. Especially because, when it comes down to it, it's quite possibly the filmmaker's most "accessible" movie to a mainstream audience.
This doesn't mean necessarily that it's like ET or something, since if only on the peripheral side of things it's as much a Jodorowsky movie as ever. In this story of a petty thief who robs and steals little things (i.e. an egg or a newspaper) to big things (i.e. an old record player belonging to a circus midget), we're put in a society where we're focused in on the outsider(s). We're mostly with Sharif throughout the picture as he goes along this lot of folk who live in the dregs, poor, destitute, or in the circus or the freak-shows, or working at the local pub. And the most significant scene showing someone living in a bourgeois setting, which is early on with Christopher Lee, it's in deranged excess with the Rainbow girls surrounded by Dalmatians and riding some motor-car. Even as someone else wrote it, and he was a "hired gun" as they say, this is nevertheless a Jodorowsky picture (for better or worse depending on the viewer).
But what makes it different from something like the Holy Mountain is, first, that Jodorowsky isn't out to blow minds away or find some kind of other consciousness through the power of cinema itself. This time he's telling a story that might have been written by Dickens; it has some of the qualities of a fable while also taking note of squalor and filth and the realities of living on the street and being among folk who dwell in the urban setting. Not to mention, of course, that Sharif and O'Toole spend their years waiting on the possible inheritance money from Uncle Rudolf in the sewer, with O'Toole doing ventriloquism with his (seemingly) dead dog. Second, for the first (and unless King Shot gets made only and last) time in his career, the director is working with major stars- reuniting Lawrence of Arabia's big names- and he deals with them as he would any other actor in his films, which is to let them go off in whatever direction they can to make it a better picture.
And, thankfully, their performances are wonderful, as is the bulk of the picture. While, yes, it is in some parts sentimental, particularly with the very end as one of those coda scenes that has that "it can happen in movies!" quality, it earns whatever sappy feelings come out because of how rich and full of life the film is. I say that it's his most generally accessible since one doesn't need to be a big art-house buff or into the ostensibly surreal midnight-movie scene to "get" it. The Rainbow Thief, with the possible exception of Tusk which I and most others have yet to see, is the only Jodorowsky film I'd be pretty happy to show to my mother. This may or may not come as strong praise, but at the least it's something of a minor crime that others can't have the choice to decide for themselves on DVD or at a revival screening somewhere.
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