David Lynch: The Art Life (3 stars)

David Lynch: The Art Life

Intriguing but somewhat frustrating look at the iconic filmmaker's parallel career as an artist

One cannot complain that this documentary on David Lynch is not what it says on the tin. Lynch sits in his studio in the Hollywood Hills and intently paints canvases (sticking lots of blobs of gooey stuff on them), while his voiceover answers questions abut his life and art. But not all of them.

Lynch devotees will, of course, be interested in the septuagenarian filmmaker's childhood, influences and reflections on his oeuvre. In keeping with the character of his work, this is by turns opaque, surreal and not entirely linear.

Lynch, who still has his distinctive shock of hair, now white, and still looks – as Mel Brooks famously put it – 'like Jimmy Stewart from Mars', is eccentric company. And it is fascinating to see the family photos that show the Baby Boomer in his original Pacific Northwest habitat, growing up in a very happy, supportive family in classic 50s small-town America. One of his early memories is particularly striking: he and his brother were out late playing when a naked, bloodied, distressed woman suddenly appeared walking down their quiet street. 'It was very mysterious,' he comments. Ding ding ding, one thinks, flashing mentally on Isabella Rossellini in Blue Velvet. But there are no specific references to his feature films beyond Eraserhead, or to his landmark – recently revived – TV show Twin Peaks. No, this is almost entirely about Lynch's development and journey as a painter.

That is all very well, and Jon Nguyen's film (co-directed by Rick Barnes and Olivia Neergaard-Holm) is not without its insights, but Lynch is evasive. He starts an anecdote and then demurs, 'I can't tell the story.' He mentions that he and a friend went to Europe for three years to study painting but that he came back in 15 days. That's a laugh, but what happened? One minute he's discussing his first marriage and child, Jennifer, and suddenly he's divorced. This gets quite exasperating, and it ends abruptly too, if with a wistful sweetness. Although intriguing, it is perhaps one for Lynch completists only.

Selected release from Fri 14 Jul.

David Lynch: The Art Life

  • 3 stars
  • 2016
  • 1h 30min
  • Directed by: Jon Nguyen

Director David Lynch traces the events that have helped to shape his creative output. The film is not without insights, but Lynch is evasive. Although intriguing, it is perhaps one for Lynch completists only.