LFF 2016 review: DAVID LYNCH: THE ART LIFE

Director (s): Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes & Olivia Neergard-Holm

Produced by: Jon Nguyen, Jason S. & Sabrina S. Sutherland

Cinematography by: Jason S.

Cast: David Lynch (as himself)

Festival Dates: 9th, 10th and 11th October 2016

General wide release: TBA

Genre: Documentary

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Brief outline: An exquisitely textured and reflective documentary about David Lynch’s life as a visual artist, narrated by the idiosyncratic filmmaker; we get close up and personal with Lynch as he takes us on an intimate journey through his youth.

THE GOOD:

I cannot to this day recall my first memory of watching a David Lynch movie or which one was viewed first, it may have been either Blue Velvet or The Elephant Man before being blown away by his two magnum opuses – Mulholland Drive and Inland Empire. Eraserhead was certainly the one I’ve seen as the most recent though. Even though it bares much of his filmmaking style, bizarre dreamy visual flair and surreal creativity, this is a film wholly different and a lot more ambitious than his others before making the move to Hollywood.

Ambitious in the sense that this being his feature debut, he just had to seize full independent control of making sure his vision is fully realised. This was done by performing many duties on the film himself, these included writing, directing, producing, production design and special effects.

I’m not kidding when I make the claim that Eraserhead is the stuff made of nightmares. I’ve never seen a more strange and terrifying directorial debut about a factory worker who one day finds out he’s the father of a hideously deformed baby. This film is more about its dark and disturbing atmosphere, it’s unsettling use of sound and the grotesque visuals that really drive the film forward instead of relying on traditional storytelling. As a viewer, you may be horrified and even appalled by what you see but make no mistake, it’s damn near impossible to tear your eyes away from.

In The Art Life, Eraserhead is the main focus point of this documentary where all of us ‘Lynchian’ fans gain such a bigger insight when delving more deeper into the fascinating mind and mental psyche of such an eccentric genius.

Director Jon Nguyen and his filmmaking team felt it was an important decision to focus purely on David’s personal life experiences leading up to his first feature, as his experiences were totally different to those that he went through when making The Elephant Man in 1980; marking his first step into the Hollywood system. This is something I really admired from the team behind the making of this doc, we really start to understand what Lynch was like as a child and a young man and how his fears and darkest dreams are bought to life through his expressive art. What I appreciate more though is how Lynch is given complete full rein to narrate his own life story and guide us through his most treasured memories; this is something that is rarely seen in documentaries. He’s referred to by Nguyen as a master of taking us on his own journeys into the unknown and unpredictable, opening up doorways into different aspects of his life when talking affectionately about his upbringing by his loving mother, amongst other things.

Lynch also insisted that everything you see laid out in front of you as we explore more of his personal life while growing up in Philadelphia such as the graphic artwork, black and white family photos, the music etc should be in the documentary – everything you see is owned by Lynch himself; this is the most personal portrait that Lynch has ever let us become witness to. Dedicating this completely to his four year old daughter, not only is he opening up more to his dedicated fans, but also intended to pass a lot of his family history onto his spouses too.

You also find out just what he gets up to in his spare time at home when he’s not making movies, which mainly consists of him painting day and night in his basement, creating images that have long haunted him since being a child, images that have somehow seeped into each of his movies in one way or another. Forever living the life of an isolated recluse, he revealed he would never dare bring friends or past girlfriends back home to introduce them to his parents in the fear that he may say something horrendously terrible. This is such a fascinating and well-made documentary for anyone curious enough to look further into the inner workings of Lynch’s mind.

THE BAD:

As much as we do gain a bigger insight into who David Lynch is and being educated on some of his biggest moments in his early life such as receiving a life changing call when being rewarded with a grant from the American Film Institute to make his first feature, there’s still a lot of secrets he holds back that mentally scarred him from when he was just a young boy. If Lynch was more comfortable bringing to surface his most deepest darkest secrets that he managed to keep well hidden, we may have been a lot more aware of just how that incredibly unconventional and idiosyncratic mind of his really ticks.

OVERALL VERDICT:

For all you Lynchian fans out there, this is about as much insight as you’re probably going to get when finding out more about one of the most peculiar, bizarre and interesting film-makers of our time.

★★★★ 1/2

 

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