This one I recommend.

The gum we like is back in style.

David Lynch: The Art Life explores the mind of a filmmaker whose mind begs for it. A filmmaker whose movies are so distinctly strange, otherworldly, and similar to nightmares that his name is synonymous with a style of its own. That filmmaker, of course, is David Lynch, a man of mysteries and non-sequitors who has possibly never been as open as he is in this documentary and perhaps never will be again. Luckily, he is still a fascination to watch and listen to.

Lynch, hard at work.

Having created the singularly influencial Twin Peaks alongside Mark Frost, directed iconic films of varying quality (including two of my ultimate favorites, Mulholland Dr. and Eraserhead), released several web shows, designed furniture, made cartoons, drawn a comic strip, and even produced music, Lynch undoubtedly has a body of work to admire and a legacy that warrants this in-depth look at his very being. He has also made commercials, including one for the PlayStation where a man sits on a couch in a clouded dreamscape with his head transformed into that of a duck. So that’s nice.

Some of us already know how Lynch became interested in moving pictures accompanied by sound. He was painting one day – “very dark paintings” – and thought he saw one of his little figures moving as a windy noise was heard, which led to him creating Six Figures Getting Sick (watchable here in its miminalistic yet surreal glory), which in turn led to him creating more advanced short films. The documentary travels further back, retelling his childhood and the ghostlike beings he may or may not have spotted back then. Lynch’s monologues are intercut with grainy home video footage, photographs, and some artwork of his that may not always resemble much at first glance, but looks more clear the more we know.

Eventually we move into his troubled teenhood (where he was more concerned with human beings and “dark, fantastic dreams” than studying) and soon reach the start of his career; his art life, and the things he did and saw there. I will not reveal too much more of the film’s content.

Still, as you’re aware, Lynch went on to invite the rest of the world into his unique hallucinations, whether we got to see a nigthmare about the anxieties of fatherhood, a family of rabbit people that may just be captured souls awaiting their ascension, a decaying humanoid that somehow seems even scarier because it emerges in broad daylight, or a jolly old man on a tractor. Anything can happen.

The local arthouse theater screened the film but once, and it took me a while to find any other place to see it. Worth my time it certainly was. As much as I admire this man and his art, though, there was one moment where he is visited by a babbling toddler and a caption explains “David Lynch’s daughter”. At this point I couldn’t neglect thinking “You mean graddaughter, of course?”

But all the same, The Art Life celebrates the work of Lynch fairly and even mimics it to an extent – the music; the movements of the camera and the way it looks into the world; the oft present ambience that could be sounds of either nature or the unnatural; the animated images that are transfixing yet odd and terrifying. Even when we’re watching this intriguing man do the most mundane things, such as painting on his porch or building something, it’s almost as if we’re doing so in the presence of incomprehensible forces.

There are still movies in this man’s catalogue that I need to see. I plan on watching Dune back-to-back with the Jodorowsky’s Dune documentary and I have no recollection of getting through Wild at Heart but I’ll get to that as well. Did I ever see Blue Velvet? Probably when I was too young not to repress it afterwards. The point, I suppose, is that this movie along with the triumphant return of Twin Peaks to Showtime has re-ignited my obsession (I also found new appreciation for the Fire Walk with Me film during my marathon). I think it’s safe to declare he still got it.

There may be filmmakers who are “better” than Lynch, but none will ever be quite so fascinating, neither in their work nor in their thoughts, or even how their thoughts affect the work. If any other director accidentally caught the reflection of a set decorator in one of his shots, he would probably have redone the take. He likely wouldn’t have been so intrigued by how unsettling it looked that he’d turn said set decorator into one of the most well-known and frightening TV villains of all time.

4.5/5 whatever

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