The Rainbow Thief (1990) Poster

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while only director, it still is, and feels, looks and sounds like, a Jodorowsky film, a very good one
Quinoa19842 March 2009
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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rainbows over Europe
buonesargen330 June 2006
This is a film which has immediate respect as a Europena art house film. Often this hides flaws which can be disastrous. This is not the case here. Peter O Toole is in it. Even at his worst laziest over the top performances he is still watchable. Some may call Alexandro Jodorowsky's piece sentimental and self indulgent. Indeed in its attempt to fulfill magical realism there are some oddities parading through this. The use of a circus as a parable for Christ's compassion and attempt to help an insane world is used for an excuse for indigence and longueurs. The rainbow girls are all very pretty models and I already knew about them from painting of Kirsten Imrie, Rachel Garley an Bridgette Barclay by th e actor Stephen Armourae who promoted this film because of its abstract arty script and the use of Tarot,as he is also a psychic. Alexandro Jodorowsky attempts here again to use imagery and animals to convey a message, this makes it memorable if somewhat obscure. The trouble is the people who need to receive his message are not going to have the patience for a Europena art house film with all its obliqueness.
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Omar Sharif is outstanding
t-xy30 March 2016
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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