By Ray Bennett
BERLIN – There are many who will take to the flamboyant New York performance artist Joey Arias immediately although some will find he has to grow on you. But he does grow on you in Bobby Sheehan’s insightful and entertaining documentary “Arias With a Twist: The Docufantasy.”
It helps greatly that the Twist in the title is Basil Twist, one of the world’s masters of the marionette whose humble genius in puppetry combines with Arias’s exuberant exoticism to make richly fertile entertainment.
Using footage both reportorial and artistic, Sheehan traces the development of Arias as a performance artist in New York through eras marked with success and great tragedy, especially in the time when AIDs took its first early toll.
The showman’s recollections of that time and the friends and fellow performers he lost are very moving and the testament of survivors adds to the impression of Arias that he is a pillar of emotional as well as creative strength.
Scenes of Twist at work are magical, and the productions that Arias and Twist have done together on stage involve scintillating images showing the power of personality and the artistic achievement that comes from the attention to fine detail that puppetry requires.
It’s a highly original and startling success.
Venue: Berlin International Film Festival; Director, writer, producer, director of photography: Bobby Sheehan; Director of photography: Russell Swanson; Music: Randy Lee; Editor: Robert Whitney; Production: Working Pictures; Not rated; running time, 88 minutes.
This review appeared in The Hollywood Reporter.