SXSW Film Review: David Lynch – The Art Life

Doc excavates the creative mind of the eccentric artist

The surreal David Lynch must create. Obsessively, compulsively the wheels are turning, the creatures howling from inside.

That's the not-too-unexpected takeaway from Jon Nguyen's documentary David Lynch – The Art Life, which includes nary a mention of Blue Velvet or Twin Peaks (there's a tacit expectation that we are already schooled in Lynch's oeuvre). Instead, Lynch paints. He stretches goop into intestine-like shapes, wipes away a watery darkness to create ghosts. Often, he sits silently alone smoking cigarettes.

While he paints, we hear the stories of a mostly happy childhood interrupted by frequent moves necessitated by his research scientist father's government reassignments. Those Lynchian twirlings of the bland and macabre emerge in scattered youthful memories: the naked, bloodied woman who suddenly materialized from a house; another odd neighbor who stalked the backyard bawking like a chicken; childhood joy when plopped in a mud puddle with a friend and reveling in texture and life.

Yes, Lynch had a mild form of teenage rebellion when he briefly hung with the wrong crowd, smoked pot for the first time, and parked his car in the middle lane of a freeway. But quickly he was breaking his curfew instead to paint late into the night in a space provided by his early mentor Bushnell Keeler.

We get the story of how Lynch the artist-in-training became Lynch the filmmaker. How a young father about to be tied to the 9-to-5 world got a lucky break that instead propelled him forward into a larger art life. How film was never anything but a way to animate his paintings.

The doc ends briefly on the set of Eraserhead, that fantastically strange film that baffled the very world that birthed Lynch. The Art Life leaves the viewer ready to revisit Lynch's iconic works from a new angle after its quietly fascinating keyhole view into the creative mind.


David Lynch – The Art Life

Festival Favorites
Wednesday, March 15, 11am, Zach Theatre

Keep up with all our SXSW coverage at austinchronicle.com/sxsw.

READ MORE
More SXSW Film
Unleashing the <i>Hounds of Love</i>
Unleashing the Hounds of Love
Director Ben Young on his serial-killer couple drama

Richard Whittaker, May 12, 2017

Ben Wheatley  Catches <i>Free Fire</i>
Ben Wheatley Catches Free Fire
Director on making his U.S. action debut

Richard Whittaker, April 21, 2017

More SXSW
Plans for New SXSW HQ Unveiled at Groundbreaking
Plans for New SXSW HQ Unveiled at Groundbreaking
The 145,000-square-foot building is set to open in 2019

Reanna Zuniga, Nov. 16, 2017

Hey, SXSW, How You Doin'?
Hey, SXSW, How You Doin'?
Tech pioneers, music innovators, and a daytime fave added

Richard Whittaker, Nov. 9, 2017

More by Joe O'Connell
<i>The Son</i> Rises With Philipp Meyer
The Son Rises With Philipp Meyer
Austin author on adapting his award-winning novel for AMC

April 7, 2017

SXSW Film Review: <i>Becoming Bond</i>
SXSW Film Review: Becoming Bond
The secret life of the forgotten James Bond

March 12, 2017

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

SXSW Film, SXSW, SXSW Film 2017, David Lynch, Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)