Most of the outdoor movie offerings in Madison play it pretty safe, whether it’s family movies at the Duck Pond or cult hits on the Memorial Union Terrace, or, of course, summer blockbusters at the Highway 18 drive-in.
Which makes it that much more impressive that, for eight years running, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art has managed to fill seats in its Rooftop Garden (outside Fresco) with audiences eager to see 1960s experimental short films, trippy animated features, even a full-length music video that turned into a rooftop dance party.
Rooftop Cinema programmer Tom Yoshikami says he looks for films that are both accessible and avant-garde, if such a thing were possible. That means films that may be adventurous, but are also funny or strange or otherwise engaging to an audience. That often means short films, since a full-length experimental film can try even the most dedicated cineaste’s patience. And, of course, it helps that the setting is so wonderful, an unexpected angle to view the downtown skyline, the sounds of State Street wafting up from below.
Rooftop Cinema has a typically eclectic line-up planned for its eighth season,, running every Friday night in June at the museum, 227 State St. The show starts around sundown, and admission is free for MMOCA members, $7 for everyone else, and tickets are available at the door. Chairs are available, although many audience members bring blankets to sit on, and the Fresco bar offers cocktails to bring out onto the roof.
Here’s the June line-up:
Friday, June 7 — “The Hellstrom Chronicle” — A rare full-length feature film for Rooftop Cinema, “Hellstrom” is a strange 1970 film that blends B-movie sci-fi with documentary, as a (fictional) scientist warns about the viciousness of the insect population, and uses micro-photography of insects to prove his point.
Friday, June 14 — The Films of Miranda July — Before she made feature films like “You and Me and Everyone We Know” and “The Future,” July made several funny and unsettling short films. Fans of her work will immediately recognize her artistic stamp on these films.
Friday, June 21 — Animated shorts from the National Film Board of Canada — Canada has been a reliable source for entertaining animated shorts for Rooftop over the years, and our neighbors to the north finally get an evening devoted to their work, spanning from 1955 to 2013.
Friday, June 28 — Experiments in Space and Time — The list of short films for this closing collection is still being finalized, but the films will be a humorous look at altered perspectives, including “Turning Over,” a film about an odometer turning from 99,999 to 100,000 miles. (That was a bigger deal in the age of analog, kids.)