‘David Lynch: The Art Life’ Dives Deep Into the Mind of the Unique Artist

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David Lynch: The Art Life

There are no easy answers when it comes to David Lynch. For decades the enigmatic filmmaker has reveled in confounding audiences with his unusual filmography. Audiences leave the films of David Lynch with numerous questions, and the filmmaker has always been reluctant to provide answers. It’s all there before you if you can piece it together. So why shouldn’t a documentary about the acclaimed director be any different? In David Lynch: The Art Life, the filmmaker and artist talks about his life and work with documentarians Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes, and Olivia Neergaard-Holm. It’s a fascinating portrait of Lynch, one that provides us with extra insight into the mind of the artist yet always retaining a certain level of distance.

If you enter David Lynch: The Art Life expecting an examination of Lynch’s work as a filmmaker you’re going to be sorely disappointed. Instead this movie is Lynch recalling stories from his youth in interviews while we see footage of the artist working on various paintings and projects. Sometimes these are stories that are quite biographical, such as when he talks of his mother and father and the constant moving that his family did in his youth. Other times they’re just odd anecdotes, like moments you might encounter in one of Lynch’s films. To really find the connective tissue between everything that Lynch presents is often difficult. Like his films, Lynch is willing to put information out there but not always eager to provide the larger answers to the questions that may arise. This is really noticeable when the filmmaker is recalling a story from his youth and abruptly stops, saying he can’t continue on with the story.

The title The Art Life refers to what Lynch constantly calls his youthful attempts to turn his artistic side into a career. “I had this idea that you drink coffee, you smoke cigarettes, and you paint. And that’s it. Maybe girls come into it a little bit. But basically it’s the incredible happiness of working and living that life,” the filmmaker and artist says at one point. He often is smoking a cigarette and surrounded by Coke bottles when working on a project, unless his young daughter happens to be beside him. When it comes to opening up, though, Lynch often starts to let his guard down for brief moments before seemingly realizing that he’s opening himself up, and quickly that apprehension returns.

It’s not until the end of David Lynch: The Art Life that filmmaking comes into the conversation. Living with his first and eldest child in Philadelphia, Lynch had to take a day job out of fiscal desperation. He applied for a grant and was eventually accepted. That funding turned into Eraserhead, and started his career as one of the most acclaimed filmmakers of his generation. In probably the tenderest moment of reflection in the film, Lynch ponders what his life would’ve been like had it not been for that grant. The memories of making Eraserhead hold a special place in Lynch’s heart. “Eraserhead was one of my greatest, happiest moments in cinema,” he said. “What I loved about it was the world and having it be my own little place.”

Even though David Lynch has made a feature film in over decade doesn’t mean that he’s not always working on something. The mind of Lynch is one-of-a-kind, and the art he churns out of his private studio is just as unique. David Lynch: The Art Life pulls us closer into the mind of its subject, closer than we’ve ever been before. It’s a fascinating portrait to behold even when the filmmaker starts to pull away. We may never fully understand the way that the mind of David Lynch works, but at least we can get a better understanding of The Art Life.

David Lynch: The Art Life
  • Overall Score


A fascinating portrait of artist and filmmaker David Lynch, David Lynch: The Art Life is a mixture of biography and anecdotes that help the audience understand one of the world’s most unique artistic minds.

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