David Lynch looks like a man with a lot of pent up anger. He puts this anger into his work, his personal life and, most of all, his art. It’s an interesting breakdown to see, and if you’ve ever seen a Lynch film or clip of him behind the scenes, you’ll know that he’s a perfectionist that wants to make his films look broken. An odd mixture to receive, the perfectionism of Stanley Kubrick and the unkempt range of Werner Herzog. But Lycnh manages to blend the two well enough in his movies, and David Lynch: The Art Life looks to show how he makes this blend in his personal life.
Unfortunately though, the documentary is too busy trying to replicate Lynchian style directions and narratives, focusing on directors Jon Nguyen, Nick Barnes and Olivia Neergaard-Holm’s flimsy replications, rather than on the man who inspired them. Considering Lynch is sat right in front of them, it’d be hard not to take note of his potential corrections, refusals and acceptances to what the trio of documentary makers would want for their film.
We don’t really get any insights into the creative process of Lynch, the impact of his work on the world or even any interesting tidbits about what it means to make a movie. That would, in effect, be far too straight forward for the documentary. It’s apparent that Lynch wouldn’t even give such questions the time of day. Instead, we see him paint, write, and sit smoking cigarrettes in a dimly lit room. It grows towards frustrating pretentiousness, but never dives head first into such styles, instead, we see the documentary makers edge their way through an uncomfortable hour and a half of film.
But I doubt he will have wanted them to replicate his work this much or this frequently. It feels ambiguous at best to suggest that Lynch would want this documentary to be more a showcase of his work rather than himself. Even then, that may also be the exact, perfect way to show us the work of one of the most twisted minds in Hollywood. Whatever the case, the documentary itself and the detail it provides isn’t all that interesting, even when there’s such a sublime interviewee waiting to be pulled apart.
Far too loose to be anything coherent, yet not weird enough to provide us with the nightmare fuel Lynch is fully capable of giving us, The Art Life is a strange film to try and watch, and even harder to invest in fully. It relies on the uber Lynchian fans praising the work as a piece that captures the genius of a twisted man, when in actual fact the documentary catches little outside of the smoke coming off of the cigarette butts that idly sit in the hands of a solid enough director.