“Suspiria,” No Funeral, “Rat Film,” GateSound, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Emili Earhart, Scott Gordon, Edwanike Harbour, Chris Lay, Grant Phipps, Henry Solo
Sponsor message: The weekly Tone Madison calendar is made possible with support from Union Cab of Madison, a worker-owned cooperative providing safe and professional taxi services.
THURSDAY OCTOBER 26
Suspiria. Union South Marquee, 7 p.m. (free)
There is much to unpack in Dario Argento’s 1977 film Suspiria, which set a high bar for how visually engaging a horror movie can be beyond the splatter and gore. (Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of that to go around here.) Jessica Harper plays young Suzy Bannon, who has just arrived to attend a dance academy in Freiburg, Germany. Things get off to a rough start as she sees a young girl fleeing the school upon her arrival in the middle of the night. A series of horrific murders and other oddities ensue at the academy, as Argento sucks viewers into a smorgasbord of art-deco set pieces, oversaturated colors, and unnatural camera angles. Italian prog-rock band Goblin provides a bone-chilling soundtrack, complete with tubular bells and demonic whispering, that heightens the film’s sense of dread. (It Follows and The Guest are more recent films that have borrowed from Goblin’s score, and are better for it.) There is supposedly a remake in the works, but do yourself a favor and don’t be suckered into seeing a remake of a genuine classic. Instead, catch the original Suspiria, which had a major influence on just about every 1980s American horror flick, and screens here in a new digital restoration. —Edwanike Harbour
Chasing Trane. Central Library, 6:30 p.m. (free)
There’s really no definitive documentary on the life and music of saxophonist John Coltrane, so director John Scheinfeld attempts to fill the void with the new Chasing Trane. Summing up a musician and composer who contributed seismic harmonic innovations, transcendent compositions, and essential collaborations with artists including Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, before dying at age 40, is a tough task. The tough reviews the documentary has earned so far indicate that Scheinfeld tackles the challenge in a pretty conventional way, offering a serviceable overview of Coltrane’s work and a blue-ribbon gallery of talking heads. These include some of his still-living peers and collaborators, like fellow saxophone icon Sonny Rollins and the extraordinary pianist McCoy Tyner, and younger disciples like saxophonist Kamasi Washington, but do we really need Bill Clinton and Carlos Santana holding forth on Coltrane? But however the film itself strikes you, this will inevitably be an insightful evening, thanks to a post-screening panel discussion made up of Madison-connected jazz performers and commentators. Stick around to hear insights from saxophonist and Cafe Coda founder Hanah Jon Taylor, pianist John Wildman, WORT-FM jazz host Steve Braunginn, and UW-Madison saxophone professor Les Thimmig. —Scott Gordon
GateSound: Tom Rainey + Devin Drobka. Gates of Heaven, 8 p.m.
Milwaukee-based jazz drummer Devin Drobka has served as an essential force in the Midwest jazz scene as an educator, organizer, and performer, spearheading a number of adventurous projects that connect players throughout the region. In addition to forming and organizing the UnrehearsedMKE improv series in Milwaukee, Drobka collaborates with prominent Madison jazz figures such as Johannes Wallamann and Tony Barba, as well as other Wisconsin-based projects such as Lesser Lakes Trio. His expressive, energetic, and dynamic playing yield adventurous opportunities in instrumentation, such as his pianoless Thelonious Monk tribute with Racine-based trumpeter Jamie Breiwick, and, at this Tone Madison-presented show at the historic Gates of Heaven, an improvisatory drum duo with New York’s Tom Rainey. Rainey boasts a long history as a session musician and collaborator with performers such as Tim Berne and Nels Cline. Over the past several years, Rainey has expanded his involvement to leading his own projects with guitarist Mary Halvorson and saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock—a particularly relentless, while often patient and spacious, trio. Rainey and Drobka will play two improvised sets here. Ticket presale available, discount for our Patreon donors. —Emili Earhart
FRIDAY OCTOBER 27
University Opera: A Kurt Weill Cabaret. Music Hall, 7:30 p.m. (also Oct. 29 at 3 p.m. and Oct. 31 at 7:30 p.m.)
Kurt Weill’s influence as a composer spans not only the worlds of opera and musical theater, but also countless corners of popular music. Interpreted on and off Broadway, as well as by artists ranging from John Zorn to The Doors to PJ Harvey, Weill’s songs are widely recognized as established standards, as well as platforms for interpretation and innovation. A Kurt Weill Cabaret is a best-of surveying Weill’s vocal work, first performed off-Broadway in 1963. The University Opera is definitely straying from its usual programming by adding a non-opera to its 2017-18 season (which also features spring performances of Puccini’s 1895 opera, La Bohème), but the choice also fits in with director David Ronis’s efforts to include a somewhat contemporary production. Last season, Ronis and the University Opera accomplished outstanding, creative productions of Verdi’s Falstaff (1893) and Britten’s The Turn Of The Screw (1954). While A Kurt Weill Cabaret does not have a central plot, instead pulling together songs and arias from several of Weill’s musicals and operas, it will be exciting to see how Ronis, the cast, musicians, and crew grapple with cohesion in tying together the program. Performances will be in English, German, and French, featuring text by Bertolt Brecht—with whom Weill worked closely—as well as Ira Gershwin and others. —Emili Earhart
SATURDAY OCTOBER 28
Spellbound. Robinia Courtyard, 10 p.m.
Presented by the TV Dinner DJs and Snaggle Tooth Tattoos, this costume contest and party offers an enticing list of prizes from several local businesses, with a $5 entry fee benefitting the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault. TV Dinner-curated Spellbound mixtapes as well as a special on Snaggle Tooth tattoo offerings, are currently on auction, with proceeds from those going towards WCASA as well. Some highlights from the prize list include event passes for Tone Madison‘s 3rd anniversary party, gift cards to LUST Beautyworks, Good Style Shop, Robinia Courtyard (the host of this event and generally sick DJ spot), and work from American Trash. Whether you decide to participate in the contest or not, a Halloween party at Robinia with the eccentric TV Dinner DJs on deck will definitely promise a freaky night of dancing. —Emili Earhart
Freakfest. State Street, 7 p .m.
Freakfest was originally conceived in 2006 to serve as an extinguisher for the hedonistic firecracker that used to be, and still in many ways is, Halloween in downtown Madison. In this it has served its purpose functionally, but for many years failed to justify its existence as a music festival. 2016 was a potential turning point in this, with Anderson .Paak headlining a much more solid lineup. On paper, 2017 not quite reach the high bar set last year, but it also should not be too much of a drop-off either. DRAM, this year’s headliner, doesn’t quite match the talent or quality of Anderson .Paak And The Free Nationals, but he is a talented pop songwriter capable of creating infections hits like “Cash Machine” and “Broccoli.” He is also quite the showman in his live performances, and should feed well off the drunken collegiate energy on State Street. Another artist worth checking out is Illinois emcee Kweku Collins. Performing on the same stage as DRAM and George Clinton, Collins provides a nice contrast to the more bombastic artists that will follow him. Collins broke out in 2016 with his Nat Love LP and followed it up with his latest project, grey. Both releases demonstrate Collins’ ability to combine pensive and reflective lyrics with half-sung, emotion-inflected vocals. He also has an ear for great production, like on “Aya,” featuring Allan Kingdom. Freakfest will also serve as an extension of local band Greenhaus’ current hot streak. Though Greenhaus’ offerings online are relatively sparse, they more than make up for this in a live setting. Their chemistry is evolved beyond their years, and front-person Halle Luksich excels at drawing concertgoers into the strange worlds their songs create. Hopefully we’ll hear some new material here. —Henry Solo
The Student Nurses. Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
Which came first: The counterculture secreting itself into the collective unconscious via 1970s stag films, or the gonzo exploitation matinee modded up with yippie themes to further frighten your parents? Either way, UW Cinematheque is prescribing a dose of hard-to-find over-the-counter golden-age genre sleaze with the second (and final) entry in its Stephanie Rothman program this fall. Framed around the travails of four female students in nursing school, The Student Nurses (one of whom is the one-time Vadim girl Barbara Leigh) gives enough sugar to help the medicinal messages go down. To give you an idea of the range of notes this Roger Corman production manages to hit: We get acid, abortion, and antiestablishmentarianism, the holy trinity of a-words, all presented under the guise of a movie that perv-oriented movie guide Mr. Skin rates as having “Hall of Fame Nudity!” Grindhouse nerds are going to leap at the opportunity to catch a screening of this classic in a restored 35mm print from Academy Film Archive. Yes, that Academy. —Chris Lay
SUNDAY OCTOBER 29
The Skin I Live In. Chazen Museum of Art, 2 p.m. (free)
Of all the entries in Pedro Almodóvar’s expansive filmography, The Skin I Live In (2011) most boldly wears its French influences on its sleeve. Inspired by the 1984 crime thriller novel Tarantula by Thierry Jonquet, late-twentieth century fabric sculptures of Louise Bourgeois, and the surgical horrors in Georges Franju’s film Eyes Without A Face (1960), Skin confronts sexual and gender identity while at once examining the human form’s objectification in and through art. The plot principally concerns plastic surgeon Robert Ledgard’s (Antonio Banderas) ambition to apply a synthetic, heat-resistant skin called “gal” on actual burn victims rather than on lab mice. But in his opening symposium, Ledgard’s dark, problematic visions are revealed to his doctoral colleagues, forcing them to curtail his medical research. However, they are already unaware of a secret, monitored chamber on his own luxurious estate where he’s holding captive a test subject, the petite Vera (Elena Anaya). This scene may initially promise a more menacing riff on the scenario that defined Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (which screens a week prior as part of UW Cinematheque’s ongoing Almodóvar series at the Chazen), but the Spanish director is more interested in ambiguity slowly sustained through a double-edged voyeuristic exploration of revenge and redemption. In moments that seem to have inspired Alex Garland’s Ex Machina (2015), Vera begins to devise her escape through a fake submission to her captor, intensely staring back at his strategically installed cameras, thus inverting the male gaze and further complicating Ledgard’s primal motivations. While the ultimate effect of The Skin I Live In is somewhat impeded by a disorienting continuity, Almodóvar’s strange and uninhibited filmmaking, which admirably looks at themes of fixed versus malleable identity, is progressive and transfixing. —Grant Phipps
Micro-Wave Cinema Series: Rat Film. 4070 Vilas Hall, 7 p.m. (free)
Not to fly under the radar in the weekend’s densely packed campus screening schedule is the largely American showcase of micro-budget films, Micro-Wave Cinema Series, which shares UW Cinematheque’s regular venue, 4070 Vilas Hall, on select Sundays. Whether he’s focusing on subversive narrative features or enlightening documentaries, programmer Brandon Colvin has generally leaned towards work that is fiercely defined by the character of its environment and location, like last year’s most moving ethnographic double-feature Field Niggas (in Harlem) and Buffalo Juggalos (in western New York state). Theo Anthony’s Rat Film closely follows their example in a similar observational style while also dramatically developing a thesis in an essay format that conveys the urban rat infestation as a window to Baltimore’s residential segregation and racism. In the trailer, a local exterminator firmly and succinctly states his stance: “It ain’t ever been a rat problem in Baltimore. It’s always been a people problem. And that ain’t gonna change until you educate the people.” These haunting words provoke Anthony’s curiosity and intensive look at issues festering in Maryland’s largest city and port, including the police’s involvement in the death of black men like Freddie Gray. Rat Film‘s director, who grew up just south of Baltimore in Annapolis, naturally continues to spiral outward in his research, shedding light on an insidious and elaborate network of historical and present events. It’s as if he’s drawing equally from the microcosmic intrigue of a crime drama like The Wire while reaching for the high-minded philosophy of art-house director Chris Marker (Sans Soleil) in narration and cinematography that roams homesteads and alleyways alike. Dan Deacon’s soundtrack surprisingly keeps pace with Anthony’s findings, shifting from pulsating plunderphonics (audio mashups) to meditative, ambient chimes. Stick around after the 80-minute film for a video Q&A chat with the director. —Grant Phipps
MONDAY OCTOBER 30
Tunic, No Funeral, Blessed, Poney. North Street Cabaret, 7 p.m.
Minneapolis band No Funeral works in the more debased and abrasive corners of doom metal. On the band’s 2016 debut album, Misanthrope, the band pairs its dense riffs with menacing, swaggering rhythms and distortion that leans more toward steel wool than toward comforting sludge. Guitarist Kevin Pipkorn’s vocal style is what really pushes songs like “Narcotic Hex” into malignant territory, with corroded howls that lance through the band’s filth-coated sludge. They’re on an altogether excellent bill here. Winnipeg band Tunic play excellent, frenzied noise-rock, as captured on the recent Boss EP. Vancouver’s Blessed craft bright but structurally and rhythmically twisted rock that should appeal to fans of Deerhoof and Polvo. Madison/Wausau band Poney recently reemerged after a few quiet years, and have been working on a new album. Their music is an epic, inventive blend of metal, hardcore, and prog-rock. —Scott Gordon
WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 1
Spotlight Cinema: Thirst Street. Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 7 p.m.
In the last few years, writer-director Nathan Silver has seen a strong representation in Madison, with films screening in the Micro-Wave Cinema Series and at the Wisconsin Film Festival (which hosted the North American premiere of his Stinking Heaven in 2015). MMoCA’s Spotlight Cinema continues the local support with the regional premiere of Silver’s new transcontinental psychosexual drama, Thirst Street. If Silver’s prior efforts often paid homage to American indie trailblazer John Cassavetes, this film successfully experiments with tropes and moods of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s intense 1970s chamber dramas and “Eurosleaze”/erotica, much like Peter Strickland’s hypnotic masterpiece Duke Of Burgundy (2014). However, rather than engaging in mere mimicry, Silver adds his own flavor with starkly literary narration from the eminent Anjelica Huston and takes a page from the rigorous character studies of his contemporary Alex Ross Perry (Listen Up Philip, Queen Of Earth). With Huston’s dry but poised assistance, the film initially details the precarious day-to-day life of flight attendant Gina (Lindsay Burdge), who is struggling with grief after her ex’s suicide. She ends up in Paris and falls hard for a slick, mustachioed bartender named Jerome (Damien Bonnard). What he may have passed off as a short-lived fling is a potential romance to Gina in her heightened emotional state. She is soon suspending arrangements in the States to remain in the city of love to help grow their relationship. Of course, this rash plan goes awry once Jerome begins to get reacquainted with his punk singer ex-girlfriend Clémence (Esther Garrel). Silver handles the resulting love triangle and its chaos with many handheld close-ups and neon-lit night nightclub scenes that amplify Gina’s descent into obsession and madness. —Grant Phipps