Judy & Punch
120 minutes, 2020
“That’s the way to do it”
With this, her first feature, writer-director Foulkes has demonstrated a marvellous sense of creativity and the ability to bring her narrative vision to convincing life on the big screen.
Dating back as far as the 16th century in Italy’s commedia dell’arte (landing in the U.K. in 1662), these famous puppet characters (either marionettes or hand puppets—the latter better able to mete out beatings without ruining the former’s delicate strings), this traditional entertainment has appeared around the globe in various forms ever since.
As the film’s title implies, the “star” of this production will be Judy (yet another tour de force portrayal from Mia Wasikowska—cross-reference below) who commands the action whether shining as the best puppeteer of the husband-and-wife duo, enduring’s hubby’s (Damon Herriman at times over the top in his unrepentant nastiness) boozing, broads and beatings, and, apparently, managing to live another day—trading understandable desire for revenge for a “use your smarts strategy”, even though her only child has already gone to her great reward.
Adding into the mix are the customary hangings of local witches (trumped up charges, much to the delight of the “good” citizens of landlocked Seaside), many more of these heretics (almost all women) have been ousted from their community only to eke out life in the forest.
Trying to keep order in this hypocritical village falls on the shallow, yet caring shoulders of Constable Derrick (Benedict Hardie nails his character’s confused, but sincere emotions to a T).
With the disappearance of Judy and marvellously staged accidental death of her wee daughter—literally at Punch’s hands—the film soon turns into a morality play rather than capricious entertainment.
The coven of heretics in a nearby forest (artfully lead by Dr. Goodtime—Gillian Jones conjures up a totally believable performance)—home to the colony of outcasts—provides Foulkes the necessary backdrop to zero in on her points about willful blindness, innocents going to their deaths, and the dangers of using brutal bullying to get one’s deranged way.
Punch’s eventual comeuppance is a devilishly well-conceived exploitation of the fear within: even bastards such as he can be petrified. His final puppet show brings new meaning to “Speak hands for me”. At last Judy gets top billing.
The music, original score from François Tetaz, and including Bach (“Air for the G String”) Verdi (excerpt from Rigoletto) and Leonard Cohen (“Why by Fire”), along with a beautifully voiced chorus, adds much to the overall tone—much of that discreetly cautionary.
The archival footage in the closing credits speaks further volumes as to the danger of celebrating the “Joy of Violence” while musing very young minds. JWR
94 minutes, 2019
The Games People Play
Sorry to stay that—from these eyes, others may disagree, of course—the feature début from Bloomquist (along with co-writers Caron Bloomquist and Adam Weppler) is an abject failure.
On the surface, the premise of two long-lost brothers reuniting after decades is appealing, but the delivery leaves much to improve.
Playing games (including Cubby Bunny and Flashlight Tag) just adds to the ludicrous silliness (and hints at the dénouement to come as do the fact “there are no animals on the property”).
The principals in this mainly threesome (Weppler as hirsute Seth, Catherine Corcoran playing the curvaceous Abby along with Nicholas Tucci’s Richard as the unrepentant chequebook hoisting long-lost brother), do their best, but fall over the abyss of credibility one game at a time.
You have been warned! JWR