“Judy & Punch” or A History of Violence

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From Australia, a country which always reserved peculiar surprises and watersheds to the history of cinema, comes an unusual black comedy which is also the directorial debut of actress Mirrah Foulkes.

Set in an imaginary English town called Seaside (which is surrounded by a huge and deep forest with no sight of sea at all) somewhere between 15th and 17th century, comes the story of Master Puppeteer Punch and his wife Judy. He is the celebrity of the town, famous for his ultra-violent puppet shows which are the delight of a community extremely inclined to random violence and brutal killings. Judy is his wife. He has equal talent than him in manoeuvring puppets but, on the contrary of Punch, is a stable and rational person while his husband, helped also by a strong alcohol addiction, is poisoned by the same violence he puts in his show. When their infant daughter dies in a stupid accident and the devilish behaviour of Punch soars, Judy will have to confront him once for all helped by a group of outcasts.

A dark fairytale from the age of #MeToo, “Judy & Punch” reflects on the power of manipulative individuals, the strength of fake news and superstition and the apparent weakness of women, chained to a system which sees them as mere objects and where independence is seen as witchcraft and then punished with death. Mirrah Faulkes is an ironical narrator, who manages to create a strange and eerie atmosphere (the beautiful initial sequence) but her desire to wink to the audience unfortunately weakens the ending where the message is openly delivered to the contemporary audience while it would have been worth to make it a bit more subtle. Mia Wasikowska and Damon Herriman lead a cast of interesting faces who prove that Australia is a gold mine for expressive actors. The soundtrack by François Tetaz rearranges remarkably some classic pieces by Bach and other composers of the time.

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