DAVID LYNCH: THE ART LIFE

Empire (UK) - - ON.SCREEN - an­drew Lowry Verdict cru­cial for se­ri­ous fans of Lynch, even if it may baf­fle new­com­ers. since pretty much the only thing more in­ter­est­ing to lovers of his work is the enig­matic man be­hind it, there’s a lot for them to get their teeth into here.

di­rec­tor Jon Nguyen cast David Lynch

Plot A fea­ture-length in­ter­view with David Lynch, where he re­flects (as he paints) on his idyl­lic child­hood and more tur­bu­lent teen years, clos­ing as he works on Eraser­head, the film that made him.

TREATING DAVID LYNCH as a puz­zle to be solved is al­ways a hid­ing to noth­ing. One of the more in­ter­est­ing facets to the re­cent re­vival of Twin Peaks has been on­line re­cap cul­ture and its thirst to ‘solve’ ev­ery show like it’s a cross­word col­lid­ing with the kind of dream logic that is Lynch’s stock-in-trade. But he’d run a mile be­fore of­fer­ing any­thing like an ex­pla­na­tion for his more outré mo­ments.

This means a doc­u­men­tary por­trait faces an up­hill strug­gle from the off, and it’s amaz­ing that di­rec­tor Jon Nguyen (who made Lynch, a 2007 look at the pro­duc­tion of In­land Em­pire) has got the vet­eran cof­fee lover, sur­re­al­ist, painter, mu­si­cian, fur­ni­ture de­signer, pho­tog­ra­pher and oc­ca­sional film di­rec­tor to open up to the ex­tent he has. How­ever, this could be hard go­ing if you’re not au fait with all of Lynch’s work, with his films after Eraser­head never ex­plic­itly men­tioned. The project was ap­par­ently sold to Lynch as a chance for his young daugh­ter to hear his life story in his own words, and ap­pro­pri­ately enough the tod­dler is the only other per­son in the film not just seen in home movies.

In some ways, a home movie is what this is — but the home is more in­ter­est­ing than most. Over footage of him paint­ing in his stu­dio, three years’ worth of in­ter­views re­count some ma­te­rial that will be fa­mil­iar to Lynch fans — the picket fences, the lov­ing mother — and some that’s less well known, such as a pe­riod spent with the wrong crowd as a teenager in DC.

Tales of life in a Philadel­phia slum as he stud­ied art sound hor­ren­dous, but there are mo­ments of lev­ity. Lynch’s dad was once on a visit when he dis­cov­ered in his son’s base­ment a se­ries of ex­per­i­ments on the var­i­ous rates of de­cay of small an­i­mals. His re­sponse? “David, I don’t think you should have chil­dren.”

The pri­mary vis­ual in­ter­est, aside from Lynch’s mag­nif­i­cently craggy old smoker’s face, is in the hun­dreds of paint­ings we get to see. They’re some­times used to hint at di­rec­tions of travel be­tween the life and the art, at times sur­pris­ingly lit­er­ally, but more of­ten they’re the ma­te­rial for a suc­ces­sion of mon­tages over some pretty in­tense mu­sic — it may sound odd, but this in­ter­view­driven film is bet­ter seen on the big screen.

There’s also great fas­ci­na­tion in watch­ing Lynch paint, a much more phys­i­cal process than you might imag­ine, as he en­thu­si­as­ti­cally throws goop around and in­cludes all kinds of or­ganic bits and bobs. That said, ex­po­sure to a lot of his paint­ings in one go does leave you think­ing he may be a lit­tle too aware of the work of Fran­cis Ba­con.

The tales of Lynch’s fairly smooth move from sub­ur­bia to the art world do have an air of The

Fast Show’s ‘which was nice’ guy, with friends mak­ing in­tro­duc­tions and the young artist seem­ingly bat­ting off grants with a stick, but that’s not the real meat here. ‘David Lynch’ has al­ways been a per­sona to a de­gree, his gee-wil­lik­ers boynext-door schtick clearly a con­scious mis­match with his work. There’s not much of that on dis­play here, but he’s still per­form­ing — ex­cept the older Lynch has de­vel­oped more of a grav­i­tas than you might ex­pect if you only know him as Gor­don Cole. Only in a few mo­ments do we see the mask slip, whether it be with his daugh­ter or hav­ing a shocker in LA traf­fic. These tiny mo­ments sug­gest this ex­cel­lent and thor­ough film still only man­ages to scratch the sur­face.

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