I recently had an opportunity to see David Lynch: The Art Life, a wonderful documentary about the American filmmaker David Lynch, directed by Jon Nguyen. The film offers unparalleled access to Lynch, and cobbles together a series of telling anecdotes about Lynch’s childhood in the suburbs, and his early days as a painter. ‘The Art Life’ refers to a lifestyle choice that Lynch adopted after reading Robert Henri’s book about painting, The Art Spirit: “The art spirit sort of became the art life, and I had this idea that you drink coffee, you smoke cigarettes, and you paint, and that’s it.”
“The art spirit sort of became the art life, and I had this idea that you drink coffee, you smoke cigarettes, and you paint, and that’s it.”
While the form and length of a documentary prevents it from going into the detail of Chris Rodley‘s indispensable book of conversations, Lynch on Lynch, there are details here that have never been revealed publicly before – not to mention a wealth of family photographs and home movie footage. I highly recommend this film, and speaking personally it could not have come at a better time. In fact, I enjoyed it so much I am going to see it again on Saturday with a painter friend of mine.
Colleen Kelsey (Interview Magazine) has published an interview with Nguyen, which includes a number of details (spoilers) about the documentary. The interview covers how Nguyen first came to meet Lynch, how production on the film began, and what it can tell us about one of America’s most perplexing (and private) major filmmakers:
“KELSEY: First of all, you have someone who is not very open to being interviewed. Coming from the very beginning did you have any goals of things to discover, or was it more about the excavating ideas?
NGUYEN: Excavating, because from past experience he can be very guarded. We’re not just journalists coming at him off the street. We’re people that he knows now, he jokes around with, he doesn’t hide stuff from necessarily. So, we knew that, and we were just like, “Now, he’s difficult to schedule, so, okay, we’re going to camp out here.” We couldn’t just live somewhere else and make trips into L.A. In order to really get these stories, we just had to be there when the mood strikes him because he’s not always in the mood to give it up. So we were just there for two and a half years. It was a long time.
You ask anybody close to him, Laura Dern, somebody who knows him really well, they’ll all say the same thing. ‘David is constantly creating.’ If he’s not painting, he’s carving wood. If he’s not carving wood, he’s making music. If he’s not making music, he’s shooting a film. His passion and his energy all goes into creating non-stop. He’s not somebody who is like, “Oh, I’m going to take a vacation to Italy and go shopping.’ No, into the studio, creative outlet.’