David Lynch hasn’t embarked on a major film project since the release of Inland Empire back in 2006. Eleven years is a long time to wait for inspiration, but as is made clear in the documentary David Lynch: The Art Life, he’s a patient man.
After first enrolling at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston he claims to have sat in an armchair listening to the radio for two entire weeks, only occasionally eating and using the lavatory. Lynch is an eccentric, a visionary director as well as an accomplished painter, and this powerful, lucid documentary offers a fascinating insight into the thought patterns and visual vocabulary of a singular talent.
The Art Life is more than just a snappy title. It is – according to Lynch – a philosophy of artistic immersion, a desire to be enveloped in a creative process that is more than just work, it’s everything. The film shows Lynch at work in his studio, preparing canvasses and materials, meditating over cigarettes, and getting hands-on with his paintings. Lynch narrates his own story, discussing his childhood and family, his early artistic experiments and education, in a series of edited interviews which take us all the way up to the release of Eraserhead in 1977.
We see footage of his earliest short films, mixed up with home-movie footage of home life in Philadelphia with his first wife Peggy Reavey. His present day figure, grey haired, typically smoking, almost always at work in the studio, features throughout. As an exploration of how Lynch works and thinks, the desire to see ‘moving paintings’ that set him off on his directorial career, this is a compelling and rich documentary that captivates and inspires in a similar fashion to some of his best work behind the camera.