October 20, 2019

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Living the art life

Doc gives Lynch diehards what they want to see

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/5/2017 (884 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In this intriguing documentary about reticent auteur David Lynch, we are treated to multiple shots of the director, painter and photographer, now 71, sitting in a chair in his cluttered workshop. Just sitting, staring and smoking, the hand not holding the cigarette often moving in a repetitive, meditative pattern.

If that sounds dull or pointless to you, you’re probably not a fan of Lynch and his surreal, sometimes violent, sexually charged work, from his cultishly beloved breakthrough film Eraserhead to the upcoming revival of his beautifully bizarre TV series Twin Peaks on Sunday night (it airs on The Movie Network in Canada).

For those people, who have long wondered how anyone could create the dreamlike and often terrifying images in films such as Mulholland Dr. and Blue Velvet, just watching Lynch ponder, wreathed in smoke, is a window into his process.

Co-directed by Jon Nguyen — who produced Lynch, a doc that followed the filmmaker as he made 2006’s Inland Empire — the documentary is a narrative chronicle of Lynch’s life, from childhood up to the development his first feature, Eraserhead, which came out in 1977.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/5/2017 (884 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

In this intriguing documentary about reticent auteur David Lynch, we are treated to multiple shots of the director, painter and photographer, now 71, sitting in a chair in his cluttered workshop. Just sitting, staring and smoking, the hand not holding the cigarette often moving in a repetitive, meditative pattern.

Film Constellation</p><p>David Lynch (right) and his friend Jack Fisk, who would go on to become a production designer for Lynch's Mulholland Drive, as well as Badlands, Phantom of the Paradise, There Will Be Blood and many others. </p>

Film Constellation

David Lynch (right) and his friend Jack Fisk, who would go on to become a production designer for Lynch's Mulholland Drive, as well as Badlands, Phantom of the Paradise, There Will Be Blood and many others.

If that sounds dull or pointless to you, you’re probably not a fan of Lynch and his surreal, sometimes violent, sexually charged work, from his cultishly beloved breakthrough film Eraserhead to the upcoming revival of his beautifully bizarre TV series Twin Peaks on Sunday night (it airs on The Movie Network in Canada).

For those people, who have long wondered how anyone could create the dreamlike and often terrifying images in films such as Mulholland Dr. and Blue Velvet, just watching Lynch ponder, wreathed in smoke, is a window into his process.

Co-directed by Jon Nguyen — who produced Lynch, a doc that followed the filmmaker as he made 2006’s Inland Empire — the documentary is a narrative chronicle of Lynch’s life, from childhood up to the development his first feature, Eraserhead, which came out in 1977.

Lynch does all the talking, in his peculiar, flatly nasal voice, relaying vignettes about his idyllic days in Boise, Idaho, his short-lived rebellious teen years in Virginia and his time in art school in Boston and Philadelphia.

His recollections are paired with extensive photographs and home movies, as well as examples of his dark but witty paintings — filled with the same kind of symbolism that studs his fims — and footage of him puttering in his L.A. studio, twisting wire and moulding material for his work (his youngest daughter, Lula, often toddles after him in the notably unchildproofed space).

Film Constellation</p><p>Boy Lights Fire, a work by David Lynch.</p>

Film Constellation

Boy Lights Fire, a work by David Lynch.

Painting was Lynch’s first love and it’s clearly still his passion. He recalls having a revelation as a teen that art could be a career; from then on, he strove to live what he calls "the art life" — "You drink coffee, you smoke cigarettes, you paint and that’s it."

The camera follows him, with his unruly shock of thick white hair and baggy chinos, as he creates new work — very tactile canvases with sculptural elements. His older work is used to illustrate, often chillingly, the stories he tells.

Lynch came from the kind of childhood invariably described as "Norman Rockwell-esque"; he and his two siblings had parents who, as he puts it, "got along like Ike and Mike." He has nothing but kind words for them, saying their foundation of love and support allowed him to thrive in whatever direction he chose.

Yet there’s a clear line to be drawn from his happy suburban roots to his work, which so often delves into the evil that lurks in a small town or innocence corrupted.

My Thoughts Are All Mixed Up, a painting by David Lynch.</p>

My Thoughts Are All Mixed Up, a painting by David Lynch.

The Art Life is not aimed at Lynch neophytes. There is no mention made of any of his movies beyond Eraserhead, nor any context given for why some of his recollections are so significant. However, his memory of seeing a mysteriously naked, bloodied woman as a kid will resonate with anyone who has seen Blue Velvet or Twin Peaks; many of his other anecdotes ping in a similar fashion.

There is an argument to be made that attempts at this kind of dot-connecting are facile, or that efforts to get inside Lynch’s head are both futile and unnecessary. There’s also no way to know whether the filmmaker is just telling us what we want to hear.

In the end, however, what The Art Life delivers is a fascinating portrait of a man who seems to approach his art as equal parts craftsman and esthete, who taps into his subconscious but also loves getting his hands dirty.

jill.wilson@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @dedaumier

Jill Wilson

Jill Wilson
Senior copy editor

Jill Wilson writes about culture and the culinary arts for the Arts & Life section.

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History

Updated on Friday, May 19, 2017 at 2:02 PM CDT: Rating fixed.

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