curious feminist fable with a great Mia Wasikowska

The title of ‘Judy y Punch‘, the film that has just premiered on Movistar +, makes a play on words with the Punch, the traditional puppet show dating back to 16th century Italian comedy, which in Spain we call blackjack puppets. A tradition somewhat lost in different parts of the world, but perhaps still familiar to British children, and, considering the origin of the film, also in Australia.

The film takes us to a time when that was one of the great entertainments, introducing us to a husband and wife who beat each other, kill enemies and riot with their dolls to amuse and terrify children in Seaside, in mountain areas where life is harsh, cruel and brutal, and his shows are welcomed, despite their sadism, for their ability to evade a people from their problems. However, things are not easy for the marriage, and problems will arise when their first child is born.

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A feminist fairy tale

Punch has a dangerous fondness for drinking and Judy, now a mother, tries to temper him, but in one of her drunks she has a fateful accident that leads to terrible consequences for Judy, which will turn the tables on the story. a plot of revenge that sins of predictable but that, on the other hand, turns out to be honest and faithful to its reinterpretation of a puppet show, picking up that childish spirit quite consciously.

The feminist subtext that the screenwriter and director Mirrah Foulkes highlights is not strange in the cultural age we live in, but the way in which it is presented has a rather unusual point. On the one hand, its episodic, melodramatic and violent structure, conforms to that of the grand guignol serials, recalling some of the Coen Brothers stories in ‘La balada de Buster Scruggs’ (The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, 2018).

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On the other hand, there is a tone of comedic comedy that contrasts with the terrifying aspect – sometimes quite gore – of the events that are shown to us and, although it does not seek laughter, it does there is a surprisingly black look at certain passages of domestic violence and machismo that generate different sensations due to the fact that it is set in a past that reflects the literary works of that moment. Imagine a story of gender violence according to the logic of the puppet theater.

Mia Wasikowska, divinity in the shade

Even though the work of Damon Herriman It always impresses with its portrait of human beings with whom one would not want to live for a week, its Punch ends up being somewhat burdensome and, given that the moral approach of the work is clear, the recidivism in the stereotypes they represent end up seeping into the development from a cumbersome second act that coincides with a temporary disappearance of Judy’s character.

Judy Punch Mia Wasikowska

When he reappears, the film is in the hands Mia Wasikowska, an increasingly common actress in small works like this one or the remarkable ‘Piercing’ (2019), in which she puts a note of elegance only within the reach of movie stars with an extraordinary point to which some scripts are too small . The one of ‘Judy y Punch‘, despite winning an award at Sitges 2019, is little succulent, but the actress has a point of delicate strength and mischief that keep it standing.

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On the other hand, there is a general attitude of telling things differently, with many details that end up being a sample of everything that its director has to say rather than ending up closing a round film. In the construction of its atmosphere, at times ominous and stark, at times more luminous, is a unique and addictive score by François Tétaz, perhaps one of the best of the year, which is completed with sublime end credits to the rhythm of a cover of ‘Life is Life‘, which directs the radar to what you do next Mirrah Foulkes.

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curious feminist fable with a great Mia Wasikowska

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