' ' Cinema Romantico: Friday's Old Fashioned: Heavy Metal Parking Lot (1986)

Friday, August 23, 2019

Friday's Old Fashioned: Heavy Metal Parking Lot (1986)

As “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” opens, its co-directors and producers, John Heyn and Jon Krulik, film from inside their car as they are ushered into the parking lot of the late Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland for a Judas Priest concert on May 31, 1986. “Where do we park?” they ask. “Where do you park?” asks the parking lot attendant, who sounds a lot less put out than most of the parking lot attendants that I’ve encountered. “Anywhere you want,” he says, almost mystically beckoning them forward, or perhaps just under the influence despite being on the job. Into the lot they go. And as I watched this legendary 17 minute cult doc for the first time, I kept thinking of the myriad recent Woodstock ’99 retrospectives, each one lamenting the false utopia of its ex-Air Force base site. “It was not a beautiful or pastoral place,” Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield told The Ringer. “It was a parking lot.” Man, why hoof it all the way to upstate New York when you got a good hunk of cement right there in the ’burbs?

There’s that scene in Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous” where William Miller is dropped off at the Stillwater show by his very concerned mother as we see various longhairs, drunk or stoned or both, all of whom she judges. There is no passing judgement in “Heavy Metal Parking Lot”, but neither, really, is there celebrating or even analyzing. This is total immersion, the barrier between worlds sort of ineffably fading once Heyn and Krulik enter the lot, where underage drinking and drugs – the latter happening just up the road from “Just Say No” ground zero – are discussed openly, gleefully. And the directors toss out some off camera questions, they mostly let the people speak for themselves, so much so that at certain points the subjects just commandeer the microphone and spout off to their heart’s content, like the kid in the Zebra-striped jumpsuit expounding on Madonna being a “dick” and how he doesn’t really give “a shit about that kind of punk fuck.”

This is as close as “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” gets to dissecting metal music itself, aside from random shouts of “Priest!” The absurd questions of subliminal messaging would dog Judas Priest are never delved into here, the absurdity of this zebra-striped jumpsuit kid seeming to underline the absurdity of such accusations in the first place. Not that Heyn and Krulik are making fun. If the apparently legendary Zebraman is crude and cocky, he’s also an astute encapsulation, in its way, of what it’s like to be a teenager when you’ve latched onto a thing and made it your Thing, meaning that not only does nothing else matter but everything else sucks. This is your culture, these are your people, and if you don’t get it, you’re a dick. And that’s why “Heavy Metal Parking Lot” belongs not to the band but its fans, a lot of whom got a rap for being Satanists, or something like it, though this felt less like a Satanic ritual than carving out a charmless chunk of concrete as a rowdy Eden.

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