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"David Lynch: The Art Life", A Painterly Doc


courtesy of Pacific Northwest Pictures
Filmmaker Jon Nguyen and his team adroitly capture a cinematic reflection of subject David Lynch in the aptly titled documentary, "David Lynch: The Art Life". The colours of Lynch's artistry and recollections are painted in tones of smoke, charcoal and dirty silver, the occasional burst of natural yellow (enrobing a solitary Lynch as he works outdoors) and the thick layers of the reds and greens Lynch applies to his canvasses. 

Watching artists at work is a treat for me: seeing what they choose to create, why they choose to bring it into existence and the impact of their mental and physical states on what they produce. With Lynch acting as his own narrator, we get the opportunity to hear personal details of his idyllic childhood in Boise, Idaho, the family's move to Alexandria,Virginia where a teenage Lynch felt as if he was living in perpetual night, his time at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, where the miasma of racism and fear that hung over the city nevertheless inspired his work, and how a long shot lead him to the world of film in L.A.

If you're a Lynch fan, you're going to love his artwork. Dark, nightmare-inspiring, and even alien. Lynch's own father reacted to his work by suggesting he probably shouldn't have children. Perhaps if his father, indeed, his family,  had sat down and listened to Lynch talk about his art, they would have understand fully his need to create, to build other worlds through art. Then again, even if they did listen, they might be frightened by the thoughts that lead to his globular iterations on canvas, amorphous images on paper and puzzling manifestations in film.

Although, I was familiar with David Lynch's films (Eraserhead, Blue Velvet) and his avant-garde television classic, Twin Peaks, and despite Mulholland Drive being a favourite of mine, I had never taken the time to find out more about his life. If there are, perhaps one too many shots of Lynch sitting with cigarette smoke curling and wafting through the air, that indulgence can be forgiven for slowing down the film a bit. After seeing this documentary, I now have a better understanding of how some peculiar dreams, some real encounters and the synergy of Lynch's life/painter's life lead to such creations as the Log Lady in Twin Peaks, an ear in a suburban lawn in Blue Velvet, and Lynch's body of work.

On screen at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, the Vancity Theatre, Edmonton’s Metro Cinema, and Ottawa’s Mayfair Theatre on April 7th

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