Directed by Jon Nguyen and Rick Barnes
Starring David Lynch Documentary Film Review by Lorenzo Lombardi
Audiences may know David Lynch as one of the greatest surrealist directors of all-time but most are probably unbeknownst of his first artistic foray: painting. David Lynch: The Art Life focuses on just that while also following Lynch’s personal life in an effectively intimate style.
The documentary acts as a biography of sorts. Lynch recounts different major periods and moments of his life — childhood, school life, finding love and making a name for himself in the art world. As Lynch narrates the whole film, snippets of archival footage show his past to put viewers in the moment while the stories are being told. This effectively connects you to Lynch’s past through both visuals and dialogue.
Different pieces of Lynch’s art is also shown to cleverly parallel his thought process and feelings during his anecdotes. Whether he is talking about the dark underbellies of suburban areas or his various dreamy visions, a visceral piece of art will be shown that reflects the scene. As a bonus, the documentary shows the process of Lynch creating art in present time, which is fascinating to watch.
And most of these pieces of art were made long after the events discussed in the running time. This underlines the first line of the film perfectly: “when you are making a painting – or whatever – you go with ideas; and sometimes the past can conjure those ideas. And even if they are new ideas, the past colours them”.
Passion for Lynch’s work itself is shown strongly by the directors. They pace the documentary like one of the director’s films – slowly and methodically. Atmospheric ambient sounds and an eerie score also apply, making this feel very much Lynchian.
There are some genuine moments of raw emotion in the film. Throughout, Lynch’s art seems to be a manifestation of Lynch’s fear – fear itself. Sometimes, though, it can seem more personal. By the end of the documentary, we get a glimpse into the production of Eraserhead. Lynch informs that his brother and father did not want him to continue with filming since he has “a child to look after”. As fans may know, Lynch confirmed that the film was about the fear of fatherhood. This personally brought a tear to my eye.
It may sway certain viewers off since The Art Life does not focus on the director’s work. Other viewers could also leave frustrated as to why he paints dark subject matter in the first place. However, the lack of clarity is honest and unpretentious. Lynch’s understated reasons for his strong passions are a captivating watch. This personal reveal takes you one step closer to understanding the characteristic enigma that is David Lynch.