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David Lynch: The Art Life Documentary Review

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I knew my stuff sucked. But I need to burn through..I needed to find what was mine...and ...the only way to find it is to keep painting and keeping painting and keep painting and see if you could catch something.

Documentary filmmakers have always loved artists. Perhaps it's because there is a widespread notion that artists are tortured and their art is a form of confession. After all, why are they creating art instead of having a normal life like all the rest of us? Of course, this is a cliche. Artists are like all the rest of us they just like to make art and express themselves.

Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes and Olivia Neergaard-Holm have created a documentary that avoids the cliches. The fact that David Lynch, one of our most compelling and mysterious modern artists/filmmaker, gave them so much access to his life goes a long way towards making David Lynch: The Art Life such a compelling documentary.

There is no Ken Burns interviews with friends, family and co-workers. No elaborate interview sessions. No analysis by professional film critics. There's just an elderly David Lynch in his studio painting intercut with a long slow remembrence by Lynch in a corner of his workshop where he struggles to find the memories of his early life right up to the making of Eraserhead, the film which opened a big door for him both in Hollywood and around the world.

Philadelphia was really, really good for me.....Even though I lived in fear

Around these two worlds (the David Lynch of now and the David Lynch remembering) the filmmakers cut in family photos and videos of David growing up in an idyllic home, moving to Boston to art school, moving again to Philadelphia to another art school and then finally winning a grant to a prestigious L.A film school (AFI Conservatory) where he spends 4-5 years in the stables of a Beverly Hills mansion creating Eraserhead, his first feature-length film.

More than any other documentary I've seen, David Lynch: The Art Life, captures some of the family tensions around his choice to become an artist. Lynch himself is more open than I've ever seen him describing the pain and frustrations that came with his choice to live the art life. And for anyone who has made this choice it's easy to empathize with him. More so when he describes the family begging him to quite making Eraserhead and get a job.

I didn't want my parents to come to my graduation. But they did anyway. I was afraid of what would come out if everybody got together

The filmmakers of David Lynch: The Art Life wisely just try to get out of the way of Lynch and let him say what he wants to say. They capture the mood of his study and the slow process of creation that Lynch goes through while he makes his paintings. The documentary beautifully captures time: we see what Lynch will become (a powerful artists with a deliberate and imaginative approach to anything he creates) and at the same time we hear and see the painful struggle to become that artist. It's a beautiful dichotomy that, especially for Lynch fans, will leave you breathless.

Lynch is the one with the toy rifle. Picture from Janus Films

David Lynch: The Art Life is a great documentary about one of our most compelling and mysterious artists. Sound and music fit the mood perfectly. The documentary is itself a creative expression of the filmmakers which is probably why Lynch agreed to work with them. Beautifully shot, carefully edited and poetically constructed, this documentary film is an instant favorite and I'm sure will reward repeated viewings.

Very controlled things..like these boundaries. They just screw you. Accidents or destroying things can feed into something good.

With the new Twin Peaks: The Return running on Showtime and receiving high praise (and a certain amount of wonder at his imagination), there is no better time to watch a compelling documentary on David Lynch. The documentary will help you understand his ideas and imagination, but most importantly why he is the great artist he is today.

David Lynch: The Art Life is available for screening online via iTunes and Amazon Prime. Be sure to check out the excellent Facebook page for the film to learn more.


David Lynch: The Art Life Trailer


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David Lynch, documentary, Janus Films, The Art Life
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