In conjunction with the Chazen Museum of Art’s multimedia exhibit, Message from Our Planet (Feb 19-June 2), the Cinematheque has curated three science fiction features which all play with the idea that media technologies―from vintage devices to cutting-edge digital algorithms―offer distinct ways for artists to communicate with future generations, encapsulating the artifacts and ambitions of contemporary society. Since the entire exhibit was inspired by the interstellar time-capsule Voyager 1, a spacecraft containing a record of human culture launched into outer space by NASA in 1977, what better way to begin than with John Carpenter’s Starman, a fanciful love story that begins with an alien landing on earth (just outside of Madison, Wisconsin!) after receiving Voyager’s invitation and message of peace. The series also includes Joe Dante’s Explorers, a 1980s cult classic about three boys who combine psychic messages from space with a derelict amusement park ride in an effort to meet extraterrestrials. Plus, Nicolas Roeg’s classic The Man Who Fell to Earth, featuring David Bowie as an interstellar visitor who provides humankind with a handful of technological advances that make him very wealthy, but can do little else to alleviate his loneliness. Cinematheque at the Chazen programming is supported by funding from the Wisconsin Arts Board.

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  • Sun., Feb. 25 | 2:00 PM

Responding to the real-life Voyager I probe’s message of peace, an extraterrestrial visitor spectacularly crashes its own spacecraft just outside of Madison, WI and takes on the form of a recently deceased earthling (Bridges, in an Oscar-nominated performance). The dead man’s grieving widow (Allen) reluctantly accompanies the gentle-but-awkward alien on a road trip to the Southwest, all the while dodging dangerous government officials in an effort to meet the Starman’s connecting flight home. This sweet, funny, and handsomely photographed interstellar love story was a highly successful departure for action and horror specialist Carpenter.

  • Sun., Mar. 24 | 2:00 PM

Junior high-schooler Ben (Hawke, in his first movie), the recipient of interstellar psychic instructions for space travel, recruits nerdy pal Wolfgang (Phoenix) and tough kid Darren (Presson) to help him build a spacecraft out of a rusted Tilt-a-Whirl carriage. The boys’ odd and surprising journey beyond the stars and their encounter with alien life is rendered with a bounty of classic movie references and the usual satirical flourish that fans have come to expect from director Dante, here making his follow-up to the blockbuster smash Gremlins.

  • Sun., Apr. 28 | 2:00 PM

Bowie is Thomas Jerome Newton, a slightly advanced humanoid-alien sent to our world to find a way to save his own dying home planet. Newton brings along several inventions that make him wealthy but don’t alleviate his tremendous loneliness. Roeg’s brilliantly fragmented storytelling style takes the film beyond an exploration of outer space into the inner space of Newton's mind as he struggles to cope with life on Earth.