Film Review – David Lynch: The Art Life
David Lynch: The Art Life
Over the last few decades David Lynch has firmly established himself as America’s premier surrealist filmmaker. His movies are the embodiment of visualized dreams. From his debut feature Eraserhead to his successful stint in television with Twin Peaks and on to his now self-proclaimed final opus Inland Empire, Lynch has made movies that are unlike almost anything the world of film has seen; at least certainly American film. Lynch though is more than just an auteurist filmmaker, and as Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes and Olivia Neergaard-Holm set out to show in their movie David Lynch: The Art Life, he is first and foremost a painter.
Solely focusing on Lynch, with occasional appearances from his infant daughter Lula, the movie seeks to be just as enigmatic in regards to Lynch as Lynch is to explaining his work. Haunting, ambient music serves as a soundtrack as we traverse space between shots of Lynch’s paintings, Lynch at work in his studio and Lynch occupying various other spaces, like a sound recording booth, where he tells the story of his life as a painter, in the most Lynchian way he possibly could. Long takes of smoking cigarette after cigarette while thinking, punctuated with his drawn out stories, composed of wit and an idiosyncratic eye for detail.
It’s clear from the outset that Lynch views himself as a painter first and foremost. He tells stories of his interest in art as a youth, his years growing up while moving from Montana to Idaho and eventually to Pittsburgh where he aimed to seek a professional life as a painter. Not just the chronology of Lynch’s life through his work on Eraserhead, but the stories he chooses to tell and the way he tells are what is often the most compelling here. In fact, it would be a welcomed edition if this were to eventually be continued with Lynch discussing the rest of his life post Eraserhead in the same manner.
A portrait of a person as simple as this is void of the pretension of achieving an aim outside of simply viewing a person at work in their passion. Listening to Lynch discuss his life in terms of his art, especially at this stage, where he’s looking back, there’s a sincerity in passion that couples with a forlorn nostalgia of a life lived. Lynch doesn’t seem filled with regrets but with a love of his life in such a way, with such a fondness, that it appears he’s seeking a reliving of life through these stories he tells. Telling them brings Lynch to life as much as his work does.
Similar to last year’s De Palma in that this is just as absorbing to watch an artist discuss their life and work so candidly, but dissimilar in Lynch’s focus to speak about events in his life more than the work he did and why he did it. The most candid though may come when Lynch gets to his Eraserhead years in which he stretched the limits of family patience and fortitude, spending day-in and day-out working non-stop to make the film. Nguyen and company have fashioned a simplistic yet layered examination of Lynch the artist that cuts rather effectively to speaking to the heart and essence of creativity.