You might expect a documentary about David Lynch to discuss and interpret the slew of hugely influential films that he's directed. However, David Lynch: The Art Life doesn't cover Lynch's film work outside of a few short films and the inception of Eraserhead, Lynch's first full-length feature from 1977. Instead, it paints him more broadly as a singular artist. The documentary features David Lynch speaking and narrating the arc of his development as an artist. In effect, the film is autobiographical, though it only covers the earlier stages of Lynch's career.
Lynch doesn't really offer explanations of his work or interpretations of what his work might mean. Rather, the film allows Lynch to obliquely describe his life and processes that led him to being a creative person. The documentary shows present-day Lynch making a few new pieces of art interspersed with archival footage of Lynch and prior artwork he's made.
The result is an odd portrait of a deeply internal artist. The beginning of the documentary feels a bit slow, but once Lynch starts describing his "Art Life", the film really becomes engaging. Strangely, the documentary doesn't uncover that much new information, but there are little clues to his films hidden within the stories Lynch tells. In some of his anecdotes, fans can piece together how certain elements of his films may have been formed.
Hardcore fans will likely recognize much of the material in the documentary, but for casual fans, there's a lot of detail here. Many of the biographical incidents Lynch covers have appeared in interviews or have been written about before, but the film does offer an intriguing and abstract look at Lynch's creative process — both in the past and in the present.