Let me ask you something: would you like to know more about filmmaker David Lynch? It’s a pivotal question that will make make-or-break your experience watching David Lynch – The Art Life.
Lynch is an enigma – an interesting, bewildering puzzle. He caught attention early on in his career with his disturbing debut Eraserhead, and has gone on to allure audiences with The Elephant Man, Blue Velvet, Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive, and TV’s Twin Peaks (which is receiving a resurgence on SHOWTIME in May). While not always the most coherent storyteller, David Lynch – one of the last true artists in Hollywood – has the power to manipulate his audience with sequences and performances that can’t be unseen.
Most of my enjoyment with Lynch, however, stems from what I don’t know about him. Ever since he appeared on the corner of Hollywood Blvd. and La Brea with a cow campaigning for Laura Dern’s Oscar nomination for her work in his Inland Empire, I’m always curious about what he’ll do next. I also admire his candour when he randomly manifests to talk about current trends. The last thing I would want from Lynch is a peek behind the curtain.
I suppose I didn’t know what to expect from David Lynch – The Art Life, so I’ll take some of the blame for the displeasure I experienced while watching this documentary. The other blame falls on directors Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes and Olivia Neergaard-Holm for making a disconnected movie that fails to capture what makes David Lynch mesmerizing.
The three filmmakers allow the enigmatic director to take full-control of the autobiographical elements in the documentary. This is the strongest part of the doc, but Lynch – who is brought back down to earth – is stripped down too much. Lynch talks about his childhood (including some other troubling times), his fondness for art, and how he eventually made Eraserhead. This content can be appreciated by an audience, but it’s hard to connect with Lynch’s art. Unlike his films, there seems to be no rhyme or reason on display. They exist as rabid visual pieces that make the viewer cock their head to the side. That’s all subjective, of course.
The real problem is that the documentarians choose to convey their Lynch interviews in a way that cops the same stylistic touches from the filmmaker’s filmography, including droning audio and uneasy cinematography. This tribute ends up coming across as half-hearted, overwhelming, and a wee bit shallow. They’re playing the song, but they don’t exactly know the music.
There will be an audience for David Lynch – The Art Life of those who wish to know everything about everything. I speak for that small community of movie goers who voluntarily – and happily – remain in ignorance to be astounded by a true original. I probably should have avoided David Lynch – The Art Life.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie