David Lynch’s domestic innards and emotional histories are examined under the saccharine afternoon light of the Hollywood Hills in DAVID LYNCH: THE ART LIFE. Matching the impressionistic storytelling and recognizable style of its sole subject, this documentary oozes coded imagery out of every frame.
A film for David Lynch lovers and loathers alike, it offers a meditative insight into his life before the creation of the cult favorite ERASERHEAD. Artworks, filmed snippets, and photographs are sutured together to tightly conform to the biographical arc of what Lynch chose to share (or, at least, what made it past the editing room). Inside this carefully composed plot are kernels of expressive human existence. A potent piece of Lynch-wisdom was even folded inside the film’s subtitle: “the art life” is drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, and painting. And that is precisely what you will watch him do, suspended in contented captivation, for the entirely of the film.
Some of the most haunting moments in DAVID LYNCH: THE ART LIFE happen when he is not speaking at all. One particular image circulates through the film a number of times and has burned itself onto my corneas. In it, Lynch is manipulating a gooey patch of apricot-tinted balloon latex across the surface of an already overworked piece of canvas. The camera rests on his gloved hands just long enough before returning to the other richly textured surfaces and sounds of Lynch’s life and home. At times, the fact that Olivia Neergaard-Holm, John Nguyen, and Rick Barnes are new to directing steadily shows, but, here, in moments like these, they achieve a depth of visual storytelling typically reserved for artful nature or food documentaries. Moreover, cinematographer Jason S. clearly worked with this team of fresh co-directors to create a steady, unyielding portrait of a master filmmaker.
DAVID LYNCH: THE ART LIFE may not readily offer fans a behind-the-scenes tour of his most enduring cinematic works, but it does present a compelling and persuasive testament to his creative identity. After ninety-minutes of having digital David Lynch proselytize his learned ways in my studio apartment, I have found myself ready to pick up a pack of cigarettes and a palette of Crayola watercolors at the closest drug store.