Director: Jon Nguyen, Rick Barfnes, Olivia Neergaard-Holm
Cast: David Lynch
Watch David Lynch: The Art Life online in the UK: iTunes / Curzon Home Cinema
When it was first announced that a documentary about David Lynch would be released to UK audiences, it’s safe to say that the majority of film fans felt immediate joy. A film about David Lynch, cinema’s most enigmatic, mysterious filmmaker? Our prayers were answered!
David Lynch is undeniably one of the world’s greatest filmmakers; an artist and a true visionary who has been fascinating audiences for the past four decades. And while not all are acquired to his distinctive style, it’s hard to deny that the majority aren’t intrigued by his work.
Lynch was first unleashed on the cinema screen in 1977 with his experimental, body-horror-infused Eraserhead – a film the man himself refers to as his “happiest film experience”. Since then, he has captivated audiences with subsequent films Blue Velvet (1986), Wild at Heart (1990), Lost Highway (1997) and Mulholland Drive (2001) – the latter of which was recently voted the greatest film of the 21st century – as well as his ground-breaking television series, Twin Peaks (1990-91), and Twin Peaks: The Return, which has captured a new generation of audiences. It’s hard to deny the man has made a profound impact on countless viewers and, over the years, has intrigued further with written works, including Catching the Big Fish: Meditation, Consciousness, and Creativity, an autobiographical self-help guide into the world of Transcendental Meditation – a well-known passion of Lynch’s. However, its Lynch’s primary passion that makes the basis for this documentary: art.
David Lynch: The Art Life recounts the director’s private days at home with his youngest daughter, two-year-old Lula. When not working, Lynch spends his time in the secluded house in the Hollywood Hills, smoking, drinking coffee and painting. The documentary, directed by American filmmakers Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes and Olivia Neergaard-Holm, recounts Lynch’s life from childhood through voiceover, as we witness him manufacturing his art in a variety of forms.
While this documentary is truly mesmerising – an escape-hole for all film fans, artists and art lovers alike – the true pleasures of the film lie among Lynch’s retelling of his childhood memories and the deep, underlying inspirations behind his incredible work. The viewer is treated to images of previous artwork and/or a glimpse of home videos, as well as old photographs – these are what generate true glimpses of wonder and fascination. The artist recounts the various cites of childhood from Montana to Idaho to Washington, and it was during his happy childhood in Idaho that he recalls perhaps his most vital memory, when he witnessed a woman walking down the street, bloodied and completely naked. The vision was candidly traumatic for Lynch and now sparks an undeniable similarity to his controversial 1986 flick, Blue Velvet. It is moments like these that are worth bearing witness to, taking us one step closer to understanding an enigmatic and unparalleled mind.
David Lynch defies what an art form truly is; he nurtures this inventive, creative, ornamental soul that incorporates his everyday life. He obtained a happy childhood, loving parents and an impactful education. With such a dark, rare and unusual mind, one would expect a sense of trauma or profound incident to shape a world that many of us struggle to understand, but with Lynch, the explanation is pure intellect and aptitude.
As well as watching Lynch work, paint and smoke, we do perceive a somewhat ordinary side to the filmmaker, as we see him embark on such day-to-day tasks as driving his car, which seems somewhat alien for someone of his stature. However, it is in such moments as seeing Lynch smile at a whistling bird, or capturing close-ups of his mind-bending hands, his appreciative smile and enigmatic eyes, that you feel a true sense of privilege and inspiration.
Lynch states that as an artist he drinks coffee, smoke cigarettes and paints and there is an “incredible happiness of working and living that life”. And he does not take that for granted – not for a second.