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‘David Lynch: The Art Life’ (review)

Produced by Jon Nguyen,
Sabrina S. Sutherland

Directed by Jon Nguyen
Starring David Lynch


Fascinating documentary about the famed filmmaker focuses on his early years and his artwork. The only films discussed are his preliminary shorts and first feature, Eraserhead.

However, we’re treated to a wealth of home movies throughout as we follow Lynch in his boyhood in Missoula, Montana, Spokane and Virginia.

We learn that he felt his time as a boy in Spokane was a wonderful time for him, a state of bliss that was taken away in one fell swoop upon the family’s move to Virginia, where young David was quite unhappy.

David Lynch: The Art Life is a chronological examination of Lynch’s youth, intercut with present-day David creating works of art in his Hollywood Hills home. While we see and hear about other prominent figures from his life, only Lynch is interviewed on camera.   The result has the feel of a feature-length interview in a very good way.

I’ve been a fan of Lynch since my dad took me to see The Elephant Man when I was eleven. A few years later, when in high school, I was blown away by Blue Velvet and thus became a rabid fan.

I’ve read and seen a fair amount of interviews with Lynch in the years since, including the essential Lynch on Lynch.

Even so, there are a lot of anecdotes, stories and observations in The Art Life I had either forgotten or never heard in the first place.

There’s the famous-to-his-fans, seminal anecdote of his mother refusing to buy young David coloring books, because she feared it would retard or even destroy his creative impulses.

But there are many, many other tales here that I’ve not heard that are equally (and in some cases more) important in the shaping of young Lynch as an artist and as a man.

He is extremely confessional and open throughout the film and becomes emotional at several points, including a cryptic aside regarding an adult neighbor that Lynch leaves unfinished.

While it would be wonderful for there to someday be a career-spanning documentary on Lynch, a la last year’s De Palma, The Art Life is invaluable as a record of Lynch’s musings on his youth and his art.

Certainly worthwhile for devotees of biographical docs and those interested in art and artists, The Art Life is absolutely indispensable to Lynch fans.


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