Review: Documentary ‘David Lynch: The Art Life’ is as elliptical as its subject

How David Lynch’s early days as a boundaries-free artist led to the making of his groundbreaking debut feature, 1977’s “Eraserhead,” is tracked with deliberate introspection in the well-crafted documentary “David Lynch: The Art Life.”

Anyone looking for a fun, revealing, movie-career survey á la 2016’s “De Palma” will be disappointed. “The Art Life” is fairly sober stuff and as elliptical as Lynch’s signature output.

The documentary’s directors, Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes and Olivia Neergaard-Holm, who collaborated on 2007’s “Lynch,” reconstruct the auteur’s story using clips from three years’ worth of recorded interviews with Lynch, archival family photos and footage, and shots of Lynch thinking, smoking, hanging with toddler daughter Lula, and creating unexamined, head-scratching art around his Hollywood Hills home.


En route, Lynch recollects his relatively happy, itinerant childhood; youthful creative leanings, friendship with mentor-painter Bushnell Keeler, time at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, marriage to first wife Peggy (with whom he had a daughter, future filmmaker Jennifer), first short films, and the American Film Institute grant that helped fund “Eraserhead,” a movie that took five years to finish but paved the way for Lynch’s celebrated career.

No one else weighs in on Lynch here — it’s all him, all the time. And, although chatty, he’s not the warmest or most engaging presence. Still, Lynch devotees should dig this respectful, offbeat portrait.


‘David Lynch: The Art Life’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

Playing: The Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre, Los Angeles

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