Arts Desk

Tonight at AFI Silver: Jeff Krulik’s Heavy Metal Picnic

A scene from "Heavy Metal Picnic"

A scene from "Heavy Metal Picnic"

"I have run to the theater with the film in my hands before," documentary filmmaker Jeff Krulik told me last month while we reviewed clips of his forthcoming movie, Heavy Metal Picnic. "We could that this time. I don't know."

If you're heading to AFI Silver tonight at 9:30 p.m. to catch the premiere of Krulik's latest jaunt in the genre he pioneered two decades ago, rest assured that the auteur will be on time. "I was back up this week finishing with Greg [DeLiso] in Brooklyn," Krulik wrote earlier this week. He expects I'll be more impressed by the film he left with–even if he finds himself in a "chicken-with-its-head-cut-off moment."

My guess? No headless chickens tonight. Sure, Heavy Metal Panic went from 45 minutes of entertaining raw footage to a 90-minute marshmallow man, but it didn't stay that way. With the help of video editor DeLiso, Krulik turned HMP into a lean, fast-paced trip through 1980s Maryland.

Here's what I said about the mostly finished film I watched in July:

"The movies is very good. But, at last, it is also not Heavy Metal Parking Lot. This is not a knock or critique, it is simply an answer to the question that comes up every time Krulik makes another movie.

It isn't until Krulik e-mails later to say he'll be flying to Austin to screen acollection of his films–Heavy Metal Parking Lot included–that I realize whatHeavy Metal Picnic is about. It is about Jeff Krulik. It is about revisiting a moment in someone else’s life that defined them in order to recreate a moment in Krulik’s life that defined him. This is why he wishes he’d filmed the entire ’80s, why Rudy Childs’ tapes lit a fire in his belly, why he did not give up on the movie even when making it seemed futile.

And this is why Heavy Metal Picnic is not Heavy Metal Parking Lot. Not only is it too personal, too thoughtful, and in some ways too sad to “go viral,” but it’s also too old to capture today’s zeitgeist. That was the whole point of Heavy Metal Parking Lot and its successors. By contrast, Heavy Metal Picnic is a guide to living one’s life once the monumental moments are over; when the epic field party you played before your band broke up is just a blurry memory and the accidentally great movie you released at the start of your film career is just a footnote in film history

Whether he meant to or not, Krulik started Heavy Metal Picnic thinking he might be able to piggy-back off the movie that made him famous. He ended up transcending it."

Filmmakers Krulik and John Heyn; Full Moon Jamboree creator Billy Gordon; Rudy Childs and the Earth Dogs; Asylum featuring Ronnie Kalimon and Dale Flood; and Tito Cantero, Ken Guillette and Chris Lucid of "The Farm" will be in attendance at AFI tonight to see if that assessment holds true.

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