Madison calendar, July 11 through 17
The original “Mad Max,” Omar-S, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Scott Gordon, Edwanike Harbour, and Grant Phipps
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 JULY 11
Writer, cultural critic, and onetime Madisonian Anne Elizabeth Moore visits here to discuss her 2018 book Sweet Little Cunt: The Graphic Work Of Julie Doucet. It’s a deep examination of Québécois comic artist and writer Doucet’s work, and its very existence makes the historical literature around underground comics that much more complete. After all, we wouldn’t consider it complete without mention of, say, R. Crumb or Daniel Clowes, but Doucet’s accomplishments, including in her long-running series Dirty Plotte, did just as much to crack open the medium’s expressive range and blaze a path for under-served voices. Doucet retired from making comics in 2010, but by that point she'd already made a resounding impact with autobiographical pieces that bridged the filthy and the fantastic, and as Moore has explained in one excerpt from the book, Doucet approached sex and specifically female sexual agency with an approach that was both sophisticated and unsparing.
Moore is uniquely well positioned to illuminate Doucet's work and its context. Moore has edited two past editions of the Best American Comics series, served as an editor and co-publisher of the late and legendary Punk Planet, and has covered comics extensively via her interviews and essays. Her 2017 book Body Horror: Capitalism, Fear, Misogyny, Jokes and her 2007 book Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, And The Erosion Of Integrity both offer a variety of perspectives on the cultural battles in which an artist like Doucet might be caught up. Hopefully there will be time at this reading for Moore discuss all sorts of other things, from her work as an Onion writer to her brief tenure as editor-in-chief of the Chicago Reader. And if you've yet to delve into to Doucet's work or Moore's, this is a great opportunity to get introduced. —Scott Gordon
Instantly sweeping viewers up in the speed of the titular character's black 600-HP Falcon XB Coupe with supercharger on the hood, George Miller's post-apocalyptic debut feature has served as an archetype for modern action cinema and video games since its original release in 1979. Mad Max has made a long-lasting impact both thematically (see: Class Of 1999, Terminator 2, Road Rash, Metal Gear, etc) and literally, with its high-octane vehicular stunts on asphalt. They still leave an impression 40 years later, which the Cinematheque is celebrating with a new DCP edition of the Australian cut.
In fact, the first 12 minutes in pursuit of cop-killing Nightrider (Vincent Gil) are some of the most carnage-packed ever captured on film, as Miller announces his brand of prescient pulp with a few artful narrative tricks up his sleeve to build suspense. Main Highway Patrol officer Max Rockatansky (a baby-faced, yet-to-be-canceled Mel Gibson) is less mad than he is a relatable rogue and vigilante-in-the-making, as the calamitous chase scene suddenly shifts to an almost comically tender moment with his wife Jessie (Joanne Samuel) that seems frozen in time.
Second act subplots turn attention to Max's potentially emphatic reformation and to his partner, Jim Goose (Steve Bisley), which quickly goes off the rails inside the Halls of Justice. But the film is really readying for the eventual showdown between personalities—Max and the "cyclecade of nomad trash," Toecutter (Hugh Keays-Byrne)'s rampaging biker gang. Yet, it's quite unlike a Marvel duel between absolute good and evil. Rather, Miller offers a noir trope-tinged commentary on the idea of heroes themselves, captured in an exchange between Max and his superior Fifi (Roger Ward). In a relentless 93 minutes, Mad Max has more style to burn than modern epics of nearly twice its length. —Grant Phipps
FRIDAY JULY 12
The annual Musique Electronique event is both an integral, essential part of La Fete De Marquette and very much its own entity. And especially outside of Madison's larger conglomerate of music promoters, you'd be hard-pressed to find a more ambitiously booked lineup of producers and DJs. The Musique Electronique team has tended to focus the hardest on bringing in artists with deep historical roots in house and techno, and younger artists pushing dance music into new territory. This year's Musique spans two days on the Fete grounds in McPike Park (like the rest of the Fete, this part of it is free) and two ticketed late-night shows at the High Noon. It also features one of the event's biggest gets yet in Detroit artist Omar-S, who headlines both the Fete tent and the High Noon stage on Friday. Omar-S' work s a producer is both austere and immersive, and as a DJ he brilliantly balances a wild variety of textures with dance-floor momentum.
Saturday's headliner, Stacey Pullen, has visited Musique Electronique before. His 2016 headlining DJ set at the Fete attested to his own long history in Detroit techno, starting off with a shimmery, ecstatic feel that reminded the crowd that even the most driving techno can still create rich atmosphere. Other highlights in this year's lineup include Chicago DJ Sassmouth and NYC-based DJ/producer Umfang. The latter's 2017 album, Symbolic Use Of Light, suggests Umfang will contribute a complex, rhythmically adventurous approach to techno here, in a lineup that offers a wealth of windows into that music's past and future. —Scott Gordon
MONDAY, JULY 15
No director captured the angst, wonder, and giddy anticipation of being an American teenager in the 1980s like John Hughes. Hughes introduced us to the “Brat Pack” (Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, and Anthony Michael Hall, to name a few), not to be confused with the Movie Brats who ushered in the late 1960s American New Wave, and distilled the essence of the times without sacrificing emotional range. If Hughes' 1985 film The Breakfast Club painted a slightly bleaker portrait of life in the west Chicago suburbs, our hero Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) took us on one of the more joyous 103 minutes of our young lives in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986).
In Chicago’s west suburbs, Ferris wakes up to a mid-70s day toward the end of the school year. Not one to squander such an opportunity, he convinces his morose friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) and girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara) to embark on an epic day of baseball, art museums, and joyriding in Cameron’s dad’s Ferrari (the resolution of this latter plot point still makes me choke up a little to this day). Jennifer Grey has a role as Ferris’ sister, who seems to be the only person besides the horrible principal Ed Rooney (Jeffrey Jones) who is on to Ferris and his schemes.
Hughes really did create something magical and special in films like Ferris, even if they represent only a tiny slice of suburban American life. There is something so relatable in many of his characters, many of whom still provide the basis for several archetypes of teenage films today, although they may be slightly more cynical. Hughes left an indelible mark on 1980s cinema and in creating Ferris Bueller he reminded us: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once and awhile, you might miss it.” —Edwanike Harbour