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Spotlight Cinema: The Square

  • Madison Museum of Contemporary Art 227 State Street Madison, WI, 53703 United States (map)

For the second straight year, MMoCA's Spotlight Cinema is featuring a Palme d'Or winner (the series' premiere last September was Jacques Audiard's Dheepan). At Cannes this May, Ruben Östlund's The Square claimed the award and a subsequent deal with Magnolia Pictures for its irreverent satire of contemporary mores. With his first feature, Force Majeure (which screened as part of Spotlight in 2014), Östlund transparently demonstrated a willingness to tackle the pettiness of human behavior with a twist of upper-class condemnation in the aftermath of a father's act of cowardice. This attitude carries the Swedish director into broader and more ambitious territory in The Square, which is set in a prospective Sweden where Stockholm Palace has been transformed into an art museum after the dissolution of the monarchy. With underachieving museum curator Christian (Claes Bang) at the forefront of a burgeoning and bourgeois modern art movement, the ingratiating narcissist repeatedly emphasizes how the most relevant art is always pushing boundaries (a seeming reference to the title of the film). Of course the works of his curiosities cleverly toy with the suppressed notion that modern art is arbitrary, absurd, and plainly incendiary, zestily lampooned in everything from Ghost World to Louie. Christian's momentary focus on the rollout of the titular outdoor exhibition by Argentinian sociologist Lola Arias (simple pavement markers that re-envision safe spaces and traffic interactions) is also diverted by his shallow pursuit of journalist Anne (Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss), whom he first encounters in a promotional interview. Their innocent tête-à-tête at the museum evolves as quickly as it deteriorates, forecasting certain farcical chaos within and, perhaps just as potently, justified public outcry. This screening as part of Madison's oldest cultural organization should also provide an amusing context to the experience. —Grant Phipps

Earlier Event: November 7
Mayhem, Immolation, Black Anvil
Later Event: November 8
Bassem Youssef