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Review: ‘David Lynch: The Art Life’ pretty as a picture

Visionary filmmaker behind ‘Blue Velvet’ narrates his own life story, from childhood until he made his first film

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

Everybody has an origin story, and “David Lynch: The Art Life” tells the story of how the iconic, visionary filmmaker behind “Blue Velvet,” “Twin Peaks” and “Mulholland Dr.” came to be.

“The Art Life” isn’t interested in those films or any of Lynch’s filmed works, really. Instead, directors Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes and Olivia Neergaard-Holm stay hyper-focused on Lynch’s childhood, young adulthood and career path right up until he won a grant from the American Film Institute that he used to make “Eraserhead,” his 1977 breakout film.

Lynch’s works are so dark and twisted and rooted in nightmare language that you’d think he was brought up by the Manson family. Not so. Lynch describes his childhood — he was born in Missoula, Montana, and raised in Boise, Idaho — as idyllic, raised by two parents whom he never once saw or heard fight.

It was when he got to Philadelphia and started studying art that his path began to present itself, although there were obstacles along the way. Lynch tells several heartbreaking stories of his father not understanding or encouraging his work and urging him to stop, pleas which ultimately went ignored as Lynch followed his muse.

“The Art Life” is narrated by Lynch himself, whom we constantly see chain smoking, his perfectly coiffed gray hair dancing atop his head. For Lynch — who hasn’t made a feature since 2006’s “Inland Empire” — the look back is clearly edifying, as you can feel him reflecting upon his journey in between long drags on his cigarettes. His story is as fascinating to himself as it is to viewers.


(313) 222-2284


‘David Lynch: The Art Life’


Not rated

Running time: 90 minutes