"In those days, my world was no bigger than a couple of blocks. Huge worlds are in those two blocks."
I'll begin this review with a warning: this documentary isn't for everyone. In fact, unless you're a die-hard Lynch fan, an art fan, or an art student, I would easily assume you'd be susceptible to a few yawns here and there.
Now with that being said, I spent the entire hour and thirty minutes grinning. David Lynch truly is a legend. The man that brought you such cult classics like Twin Peaks, Mulholland Drive, Blue Velvet, and Eraserhead, to name a few, finally gives you a peak into his upbringing and his life as an artist, which to the general public is something of an unknown. The Art Life is a documentary about Lynch's early life, from his youth in Spokane, Washington (hello, Twin Peaks inspiration), to the move to Montana and Idaho, and finally Philadelphia, where he pursued his career in art.
The wonderful thing about Art Life is that it's told strictly through Lynch's narration in his home, with shots of him present day, bouncing his daughter on his lap, serenely painting. This is intermitted with photos of his earlier artwork, along with videos and images of his family and friends growing up. Being so simplistic seems to work; you're absolutely enamoured by Lynch's way of telling a tale. I couldn't take my eyes off the screen, constantly watching these old clips of him just waiting for a glimpse of something unexpected or shocking. That being said Lynch is a tease, and as we all know loves to leave you guessing.
Stories of David falling in with the wrong crowd in his teens and a bizarre occurrence as a child playing in his neighbourhood and coming across a bloodied, naked woman walking past seem to shape thoughts and ideas in his films later on. Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks suddenly seem to have a little bit of truth littered about, and running into things like that are what make this film such a treat to watch.
Even with some bizarre occurrences in his formative years, and with his artwork that teeters on the dark side, I spent my time in the theatre oddly enough feeling like I understood him, and watching as he seemed absolutely at ease and laid-back, with not a care in the world. It's equally as fascinating finding out about his passion for art and the constant praise from artist Bushnell Keeler who pushed him to continue painting.
"You drink coffee, you smoke cigarettes, you paint, and that's it."
The film neatly ties together in the end, where Lynch sees one of his pictures moving, thus inspiring him to make "moving pictures", this then turns into his departure to LA, and subsequently ends with the creation of Eraserhead.
Jon Nguyen, who directed the documentary really succeeds in giving it a Lynchian vibe, which I'm sure David helped with, leaving you wanting to know so much more, but still content hearing about the director's intimate beginnings.