David Lynch: the mysterious mind-fucker behind such films as Eraserhead, Lost Highway, Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive has been the subject of countless debates, Q&A panels and interviews, which all aimed at one thing: try to access his mind and the process the director goes through to create the unique films he’s created over the last 40 years.
Lynch to most movie buffs is the Mt. Rushmore of arthouse filmmaking. A man who’s never answered the question WHY? Why is a dead man with a clear wound to the head standing in the middle of a living room in Blue Velvet? Why is Lost Highway’s creepy Mystery Man living in an empty shed in the desert? WHY? Well, for once someone decided to make a documentary on Lynch without asking him that question. Without asking him any questions really. The film I want to talk about today is probably one of my recent favorites due to its impeccable and stylish slow-burning discovery of a man who willingly hides in the shadows. The film is David Lynch: The Art Life.
What makes The Art Life so special is precisely the absence of any sort of questions. The documentary in fact works pretty much like a hidden camera in Lynch’s barricaded Beverly Hills mansion, amidst all the cigarette smoke and Lynch’s short bursts of ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’. The truth of the matter is, that the objective of this film is to present the unknown side of Lynch to his beloved viewers – the artistic side. Do not expect a biography. Lynch, left sitting alone in front of a hanging microphone, briefly mentions his childhood, a couple of girlfriends and then speeds all the way to the time he began painting. And that’s when the magic begins. That’s when we get to meet the man himself.
It is a fact that Lynch’s main source of inspiration for his movies as well as his hit TV series Twin Peaks are the nightmares he’s had since he was a child. But unlike most people, Lynch talks about his nightmares almost as if they were the most delicate dreams one could ever hope to have. His nightmares are what drive him, what motivate him to get up from his bed and pick up a paint brush. They are his bread and butter and the reason for as to why he decided to become an artist. His life was casual, at times boring and uneventful, and that’s why since he was a child he allowed nightmares to take over reality. That’s how a sixth sense was born inside his mind.
As viewers of his work, we are certainly unable to pinpoint what Lynch is all about. Damn it, if we ever had an answer for that, half of the beauty of his movies would be gone. Who else could make us question not only the movie we’re watching but ourselves if not Lynch? The Art Life is special because it finds the right balance between personal and professional. It invites the viewer to ask more questions and to be more attentive without revealing too much. It also urges the viewer to fight through the discomfort of everyday life. Through Lynch, one can come to the conclusion that in order to become an artist, one not only needs to push through all the boundaries and invisible walls life sets up for each individual, but also learn to embrace them, to embrace the difficulties, the filth, the sadness. In Lynch’s mind they become valuable elements of his work. And as the man with the glorious white hair sits down to reminisce over the time of the making of Eraserhead, he sighs and says: ”The art life. It was beautiful. Everything about it.”
And perhaps that really is the key to Lynch’s lock: the endless wonder and thirst for more life. More of THE life.