The Art Life is a letter from father to daughter, from David Lynch to his daughter Lula Lynch. For hardcore Lynch fans you’ll know the majority of these stories and be treated to some unseen footage of Lynch’s childhood. For those who have no idea who he is, I am not sure this is the right place to start. It is quite contemplative and full of scenes that linger on Lynch at home painting and working with wood in the Hollywood Hills. It’s not a dissection of his film accolades or his style, it’s just Lynch telling his life story and doing one of the things he seems to cherish most – art.
The documentary follows a typical narrative in that we learn a fair bit about Lynch’s family life and dynamics, but it starts from there. At the start. I was expecting it to not be so linear for someone whose narratives are anything but. One could almost say this is a Straight Story – burn! There’s lots of footage of him as a youngster as he retells stories that clearly had an influence on his artistic pursuits. Also in abundance is silence, and lots of it, photographs of Lynch and his art.
After focusing on his very American-Dream-esque childhood it goes into his adolescence, his first time living away from home and pursuing his art, right through to his first marriage and birth of his first child. The documentary stops at the filming of Eraserhead.
I was left a little bit underwhelmed by this, as interesting as I find his work, I appreciate being able to understand where his artistic sensibility comes from but I think it’s quite obvious. He’s not some character from Dogtooth, he’s just an average American. I think I will enjoy it much more the second time around now that I know what it is. It’s a letter to his kid, so why I should discredit it for not getting insider goss on the filming of Eraserhead or Wild at Heart is my problem.
The documentary is in a way critic-proof because it’s just a “mysterious” character sharing as much about his life as he wants to. It is a deeply personal documentary and he is very open which is great, there’s a few anecdotes I hadn’t heard which were a treat. A must see for Lynch completists, but for everyone else and especially newcomers I would recommend checking out Lynch (2007) before viewing this as you are not going to get a sense of his film works from this documentary.
Available on DVD from Madman Entertainment