Genre: Documentary, Biography
Directed by: Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes, Olivia Neergaard-Holm
This intimate documentary telling the story of the cult director’s life opens with Lynch sat in his chair, quiff blowing in the wind, cigarette in hand and mind pondering. It’s exactly how you expect the director of such films as Eraserhead and Mullholland Drive would spend his days.
The Art Life, a phrase Lynch coined himself, follows the director around his Hollywood studio as he creates his artwork, cares for his daughter and smokes a lot of cigarettes. Lynch offers his own narration as he discusses his childhood, turbulent teens and the process of how he got to make Eraserhead. Interspersed between shots of a youthful Lynch and documentary footage, the film is littered with Lynch’s artwork and the film hinges on your views of his artwork. If you think his artwork is an example of his genius than there is something here for you, if not it’s best to avoid.
While his artwork may be considered to be peculiar, the film’s strangest moments are when Lynch undertakes life’s mundane tasks. Seeing him drive a car is just plain weird and hearing him talk about doing a nine-to-five is even weirder. Also, he uses a Mac in case you ever wondered. For Lynch fans, this backstage access will be a delight but for anyone with less than a keen interest in his work, it’s a struggle to find anything fascinating enough to engage you. It’s not helped by the fact in places the director doesn’t sound particularly likeable.If you’re looking for a documentary detailing Lynch’s filmography then this won’t be for you. As the title suggests, the film concentrates on the director’s first love, art. Yet, it is possible to trace a thematic timeline through Lynch’s childhood, artwork and filmography that allows you to gain a better understanding of the bizarre worlds he has created in his artistic output. There is a moment that personifies this when Lynch discusses his mother not allowing him to have colouring books in order to inspire creativity which perfectly defines Lynch, as a director he has spent his career working outside the lines. It’s these intimate insights – the childhood discussions is when the film is in it’s element – that help you breakdown Lynch into a real human being, rather than a cult figure head.
In places, however, it plays like someone reading out his Wikipedia page and it’s as dull as that sounds. It’s in these tedious moments that you realise there is no true purpose to this documentary. While a look into his past is interesting, it’s not enough to satisfy. It doesn’t help that towards the end of the film it loses interest once Lynch starts waxing lyrical about his debut feature and resorts to shots of Lynch smoking and staring into the distance. It all comes to a poorly thought out, abrupt ending. There is a more interesting documentary to be made out of Lynch’s impressive life but this isn’t it.