'Parking' is high art on a low budget

April 26, 1991|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Sun Film Critic

Nothing like a good, stiff dose of art to clear the cobwebs that a $30 million exercise in folly like "Oscar" spins in your skull, which is why when I got home from "Oscar" and threw "The Natural History of Parking Lots" on the video, it was a nice reward for a trying day.

"The Natural History of Parking Lots," the 9:30 p.m. show Saturday at the Baltimore Film Festival, probably cost less than "Oscar's" doughnut budget, but it's a textbook example of talent, integrity and passion in filmmaking and how far those can go on how little money.

Directed by Everett Lewis, it's a probing story of a troubled kid, done in a black and white, cinema-verite style. The camera never rests; it glides around, pokes at, sniffs and shuffles through the life of 17-year-old Chris (Charlie Bean), a quasi-violent, quasi-wealthy kid in an L.A. suburb. Chris isn't bad, he isn't good, he just is -- a very nice conceit on which to build a film.

The movie chronicles his adventures after being busted for joy riding, dropping out of school and bonding with his older half-brother. It's unshaped by Hollywood sentimentality, star egos or market-driven pandering. The movie feels like a perfect visualization of a good honest rock song -- John Cougar Mellencamp's "Jack and Diane" comes to mind, though the name of this one would be "Chris and Lance."

Without forcing an attitude on you, the film eventually gets you to care about Chris and to see him not as an emblem but as a person.


Tonight the festival shows "Venus Peter," a Scottish film by Ian Seller, with Ray McNally, at 7:30, followed by "Chronicle of a Death Foretold." The early Saturday screening is a British thriller, "Paper Mask," at 7:30 p.m.

Sunday, the festival closes its four-weekend run with the British-French-Czech co-production, "The Last Butterfly." Tom Courtenay stars and will appear after the film at a gala reception.

For ticket information, call 889-1992.

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