David Lynch: The Art Life, directed by Jon Nguyen shows us a glimpse of the making of Lynch as an artist, how he embraced the spirit of it and how it all led up to making Eraserhead, his film debut, in 1977. The Art Life is truly revealing as it offers up to its audience more of Lynch than he’s ever cared to disclose in his long career before.
What I love, and have always loved, about David Lynch is that when you’re viewing his films, you’re not just viewing a piece of cinema, it transcends the description of ‘film’ entirely. I find that you’re part of an experience that embraces his art, chaos and creativity in a synthesised way that fully immerses you. Interestingly, I’ve been a fan of his ever since I was scarred by Eraserhead and the sight of the embalmed calf-fetus made me terrified of getting pregnant. This is an example of David Lynch’s talent, creating an abject macabre allure that sucks you in and make you question everything.
Nguyen’s documentary captures his upbringing and early discovery of art in Montana and Idaho before his apprehensive move to Philadelphia to become a painter. Lynch details how his mother had a great role to play in his creativity, she saw in him an artistic talent that shouldn’t be repressed and raised him with a definite sense of freedom from artistic constraints. The stories he recollects upon don’t always flow with rationality, such as his encounter with the giant bloody naked woman in the street when he was a child, and at some points throughout the documentary, you question his sanity but never his genius.
The Art Life allows you to gain a greater perspective over Lynch once you get a feel for the agitation and general anxiety that he experiences outside of his art bubble. The narrative flows as Lynch bounces his daughter on his knee, but if you’re looking to go deep into the soul of Lynch, don’t hold your breath. His cryptic manner doesn’t relent throughout the 20 interviews, as we watch him interlocked with his canvas or fixated on cigarettes. By these notions, he allows the viewer time to read between the lines and find your own connectivity. While Lynch plays upon the old creative stereotypes of only caring about art, coffee, cigarettes, and occasionally women, we’re also treated to a display of his unseen art work at home, with some being a harrowing window into the soul of Lynch’s mind.
David Lynch: The Art Life is a poignant view inside the mind of one of the most perplexing characters in cinema. This harrowing but resonant tale of Lynch’s creativity, isolation, and his alternate way of life is deeply insightful. It’s also stunning piece of cinematography, however, I have a feeling that it may be one that’s only fully appreciated by die hard Lynch fans. But, saying that, with the new series of Twin Peaks now doing the rounds, I can only imagine he’ll be gaining a whole new generation of fans that missed the sensational series the first time around.