Arias With a Twist: The Docufantasy -- Film Review

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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."

Screened at the Berlin Film Festival in February, it is now showing at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

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' 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 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 Film Festival
Production: Working Pictures
Cast: Joey Arias, Basil Twist, Ann Magnuson, Courtney Harmel, Sherry Vine
Director/writer/producer/director of photography: Bobby Sheehan
Art director: Brian Drucker
Director of photography: Russell Swanson
Editor: Robert Whitney
Music: Randy Lee
Music supervisor: Brian Black
Sound: Ronny Kubis, David Turner
Animation: Mort Todd
No rating, 88 minutes
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