Madison calendar, November 22 through 28
Jafar Panahi’s “3 Faces” at Spotlight Cinema, a wide-ranging DJ set from Farplane, and more events of note in Madison this week. | By Jason Fuhrman, Scott Gordon, and Grant Phipps
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FRIDAY NOVEMBER 23
The band Natty Nation has been a persistent presence in Madison for a couple of decades now, anchored in singer/bassist Jah Boogie's powerful vocal hooks and a polished, thoughtful approach to the many nuanced strands of reggae music. Its annual Black Friday show has become a Madison tradition too—this will be the 11th edition. They'll be sharing the bill here with a Madison outfit that has been at it for just as long, Mama Digdown's Brass Band. Mama Digdown's latest release, this year's 25, celebrates the band's first quarter-century of playing New Orleans second line-style jazz, complete with lots of raucous percussion and exuberant call-and-response vocals. Two more Madison acts, R&B/roots-rock band Soul Symmetry and the reggae-focused DJ Trichrome, round out the lineup here. —Scott Gordon
Glenna Fitch, who DJs as Sold, and Alex Bond, who DJs as Hi-Vis, both play active roles in Chicago's electronic music scene, building on a proud history with events and mixes that push for wide-ranging sonic diversity and radical inclusivity. Fitch works for Gramaphone Records, a long-running Chicago record shop that caters to DJs, and books the recurring series Neon Falls and Hugo Ball at Smartbar. Bond also works on Neon Falls, and runs an eclectic mix series called Beyond / Below. The two will deliver a back-to-back DJ set here under the collaborative moniker Farplane. Both artists have a deep grasp of house and techno fundamentals, but can also reach far out into ambient, psychedelic territory, and one Farplane set from 2017 delves into vast reaches of abstract, soothing sound with hardly a beat in sight. "It ranges from formless zones to convulsive rhythms and everything strange in between," Bond says. "I’d say you can expect strangeness, and at some point we’d probably like to dance." —Scott Gordon
Ted Putnam, who died in November 2017, made quite a mark on Madison's music community, spinning punk rock (but not just punk rock) and hosting in-studio sets from local bands on his Songs Of Safety And Manners show on WORT, and making a lot of connections as a friend and fan along the way. It's not easy to sum up his contributions or what he meant to his friends, so the inaugural, two-day TedFest, organized by Coney Island Studios, celebrates his life in a few different dimensions. The performers on offer include brilliant math-rock outfit Transformer Lootbag (Friday), multi-faceted musician and performance artist Nicole Gruter (Friday), Milwaukee noise-rockers Powerwagon (Saturday), and sample-based Madison electronic project Bell & Circuit. Both nights will also honor Putnam's work as a writer, with readings from The Mission Higher, a book he finished shortly before his death. The book is a fictionalized account of the life of Ernie McNealy, who coached basketball and other sports at the high school Putnam attended in San Francisco. Copies of the book will be available here, along with CDs from one of Putnam's own bands, Run, Cripple. —Scott Gordon
TUESDAY NOVEMBER 27
Paweł Pawlikowski's renowned black-and-white character study, Ida (2013), is the penultimate pick of the year for the Wisconsin Film Festival's free Tuesday Night Movie Club series. This understated dramatic period feature, which spiritually and visually recalls Ingmar Bergman's most artistically prolific era in the early 1960s with cinematographer Sven Nykvist, was not only an instant hit when it premiered at the 2014 Wisconsin Film Festival, but went on to receive the Best Foreign Language Film award at the Oscars the following winter.
Set in a ravaged post-WWII Polish landscape in 1962, Ida follows a young, stoic novitiate nun (newcomer Agata Trzebuchowska). Before taking her final vows, she is reunited with her last-surviving relative, the cynically flippant Aunt Wanda (Agata Kulesza), who informs her that she is, in fact, of Jewish heritage (and had only known her alias of "Anna" at the convent). At Wanda's insistence, the odd couple traverse the recesses of the country to learn the truth about Ida's parents, the Lebensteins.
The road trip provides Wanda with dual, almost dueling purposes—to prove her notions right about the fate of her family's betrayal by members of the community while also attempting to dissuade Ida from becoming a nun to instead embrace the temptations of the secular world (and thus, explore her newfound personal identity). The film's intrinsically somber tone is buoyed by the endearing interplay between the two dichotomous central characters, as well as subtler and more tender moments that reveal a once-hidden humanity. This particular screening also anticipates Cold War, Pawlikowski's upcoming companion melodrama (also starring Agata Kulesza), set for limited release in late December. —Grant Phipps
WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 28
In 2010, Iranian director Jafar Panahi was arrested, charged with propaganda against his country's government, and sentenced to a 20-year ban on making films. Panahi's latest feature represents his fourth act of cinematic defiance since the prohibition was imposed (following Taxi Tehran, which had its Madison premiere at Spotlight Cinema in 2015). An elusive, charming, and compassionate look at the repressive patriarchal customs of rural Iranian society, the new 3 Faces focuses on three actresses at different stages of their careers, one of whom remains appropriately invisible throughout.
3 Faces opens with unsettling, tremulous smartphone footage of a distraught young woman, Marziyeh (Marziyeh Rezaei), ostensibly dying by suicide in a remote cave because her family forbids her to become an "entertainer" and attend a prestigious Tehran conservatory. The video has curiously been sent to the well-known actress Behnaz Jafari, who plays a version of herself. Jafari and her director friend, Panahi (also playing himself), decide to investigate and embark on a journey to Marziyeh's provincial village in the mountainous, Turkish-speaking Azerbaijani region of Iran. As the film quietly unfolds against the backdrop of a serene, changeless natural landscape, the two engage in a succession of peculiar interactions with the locals that might seem digressive or whimsical at first. Panahi gradually reveals their significance, interweaving fiction with verité techniques to craft a moving, incisive portrait of the contradictions and misogyny embedded in the community's traditional way of life. With its contemplative rhythms, bravura handheld camerawork, nonexistent budget, and deeply humanistic viewpoint, 3 Faces elegantly illustrates how art can thrive despite, and indeed because of, strict creative limitations. —Jason Fuhrman