Cinematic Releases: David Lynch: The Art Life (2016) - Reviewed

As part of a weekend series at the Detroit Institute of Arts, the biographical film The Art Life was shown three nights in a row. Each evening, a Lynch movie was shown directly after the documentary. 4K restorations of Eraserhead, Mulholland Drive and Blue Velvet were included. 

With the Twin Peaks revival right around the corner, interest in David Lynch is at an all time high. 

An older man reflects on his beginnings. 

The Art Life is a slow paced, ninety minute look at the young David Lynch and his artistic works leading up to his transition to film making. The movie covers his youth, his teenage years, and the time he spent developing his hand as a painter and visual stylist. While the film won't pique the interest of many that don't know of Lynch's eccentricities or personality, his fans will love the intimacy that's portrayed here. By interweaving new footage of him working in the studio with intimate moments spent with his daughter and some archived production stills from Eraserhead, The Art Life is just as unconventional as its human subject. 

The entire story is narrated by Lynch, giving this a personal touch that's stripped down and bare. The movie chronicles his early life in Montana and Idaho, then takes us to Philadelphia where he began his career as a painter. Taking its audience only up to his work on the previously mentioned Eraserhead, we're only given a small taste of where he was headed. Sadly, The Art Life never digs too deep into the details of his relevance in the film world and we're never really told of the people that influenced him as a legendary director. It almost seems that their intention here was to moderately inform us of how he started, but to remain mysteriously cautious of letting the viewer know too much. 

This is different than many documentaries about filmmakers. In many ways, the editing style and the narrative mirror Lynch's very own personal directorial leanings. It's somewhat mysterious and blurs the lines between the real world of Hollywood and Lynch's very own alternative realm where creativity is much more important than being part of the machine. Spending ninety minutes in close quarters with the director, viewers are given a chance to watch him work as he continues to create modern art. 

The Art Life is its own portrait that allows David the room to discuss his admiration for his parents and their easy going lifestyle. Unlike many other docu-films, there's no hyper editing here and the storytelling is extremely straightforward. Instead of showing us too many photos or images of his life, we're shown a wide array of his paintings and creative works instead. If you're a follower of his films, you'll definitely want to see this. It's slow paced at times but definitely gets you inside the mind of a master. 

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