Movie review: 'David Lynch: The Art Life'

Brad Keefe

“And I thought, oh, a moving painting, but with sound … and that idea stuck in my head. A moving painting.”

These are the words of David Lynch reflecting back on a pivotal moment in his young life in the documentary “David Lynch: The Art Life.”

And with the resurrection of “Twin Peaks” — still probably the most revolutionary program to appear on any television network, let alone a major one — it's the perfect time to reflect on the life of one of our most visionary modern artists and filmmakers.

The documentary, which is screening at the Wexner Center for the Arts at 7 p.m. Thursday and Saturday, May 18 and 20, is itself more of a moving painting than a typical biographical documentary, and that's fitting for its subject matter.

“The Art Life” narrates Lynch's early years, and those looking for a retrospective of his impressive film career should understand that. I doubt they'll come away disappointed, though.

Born in Missoula, Montana, post-World War II, Lynch's seemingly typical middle-class life was augmented with his own unique way of looking at the world. Darkness and beauty are resonant themes throughout his work, and those seeds seem to have been with him ever since he reached consciousness.

Directors Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes and Olivia Neergaard-Holm blend archival footage of a young Lynch with modern footage of him painting. Seeing Lynch in his workshop molding paint and other materials is a fascinating glimpse into his process. This is one case where watching paint dry is actually enthralling.

The film's full narration is provided by Lynch, also one of the more interesting interview subjects around. He's as genuine as he is odd, and the memories that have stuck out from his young days are memories for a reason. “The next time I smoked dope, Bob Dylan was playing” is the kind of thing that makes Lynch make all the more sense.

There's a brief glimpse of a Mulholland Drive road sign and a still of Jack Nance in “Eraserhead” pointing to things to come, but “The Art Life” leads only to the time when the world learned about Lynch with that first feature film.

This moving painting is a moving portrait of the artist as a young man, and fans of Lynch should not miss it.

“David Lynch: The Art Life”

7 p.m. Thursday, May 18, and Saturday, May 20

Wexner Center for the Arts