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SPECIFICATIONS
  • 1.78:1 Widescreen
  • English DTS-HD 5.1 Surround
  • English subtitles
  • 1 Disc
FEATURES
  • New interview with codirector Jon Nguyen
  • A new essay by critic Dennis Lim

David Lynch: The Art Life

Blu-ray
Reviewed by: Chris Galloway

Directed By: Olivia Neergaard-Holm, Rick Barnes, Jon Nguyen
2016 | 88 Minutes | Licensor: Film Constellation

Release Information
Blu-ray | MSRP: $29.95 | Series: The Criterion Collection | Edition: #895
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Release Date: September 26, 2017
Review Date: September 4, 2017

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SYNOPSIS

A rare glimpse into the mind of one of cinemaís most enigmatic visionaries, David Lynch: The Art Life offers an absorbing portrait of the artist, as well as an intimate encounter with the man himself. From the privacy of his home and painting studio in the Hollywood Hills, a candid Lynch conjures people and places from his past, from his boyhood in Idaho and Virginia to his experiences at art school in Boston and Philadelphia to the beginnings of his filmmaking career in Los Angelesóin stories that unfold like scenes from his movies. This remarkable documentary by directors Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes, and Olivia Neergaard-Holm reveals the story behind Lynchís early years as a painter and director drawn to the phantasmagoric, while also illuminating his enduring commitment to what he calls the ďthe art lifeĒ: ďYou drink coffee, you smoke cigarettes, and you paint, and thatís it.Ē


PICTURE

David Lynch: The Art Life (directed by Olivia Neergaard-Holm, Rick Barnes, and Jon Nguyen) comes to Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection in the aspect ratio of 1.78:1 on this dual-layer disc. The film was completed entirely in a digital workflow and Criterion is working with those files here, the notes indicating they performed some colour correction, and it is presented in 1080p/24hz..

Most of the film was shot using a Canon EOS 5D digital camera along with an iPhone 5 (and itís explained why an iPhone had to be used in the discís included interview), with the latterís footage filtered to look like older archival film footage. With this high-definition footage detail is strong and the image is as crisp as can be. The footage of Lynch at work all looks very good and lifelike, but itís the still shots of his artwork that is scattered throughout that looks most impressive. Colours look great and black levels are mostly strong, though the latter can vary a bit, some scenes presenting milkier blacks than others. Some of the darker moments can also look a bit noisy but this is more than likely related to the equipment used and nothing to do with the encode. Despite that, and despite some filters that were applied to the iPhone footage, the new digital footage looks very strong.

The film does also make use of archival materials including footage from some of Lynchís own short films. Home movies, both from 8mm and video cassette, also make their way here. With the 8mm footage I suspect the filmmakers were working with standard-definition files made from that footage since heavier compression is noticeable during these bits. The video cassette footage looks to have deteriorated a bit over the years and itís very fuzzy but you can still make out the image. It also looks like a couple of shots within the film come from some sort of low resolution CCTV system. This all admittedly looks a bit rough but has absolutely nothing to do with the encode, all of it a side-effect of the type of material the filmmakers access to for the film.

So yes, there are some limitations due to how the film was constructed but on the whole itís still a very sharp and crisp image, delivered well on this Blu-ray. It looks as well as it could.

8/10

All Blu-ray screen captures come from the source disc and have been shrunk from 1920x1080 to 900x506 and slightly compressed to conserve space. While they are not exact representations they should offer a general idea of overall video quality.

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AUDIO

The film consists primarily of Lynch talking about his early life over new footage of him working, old home movies, photos, images of his art, and even clips from his short films. Because of the nature of the film I was not expecting much from this DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround track but I was taken aback by how active (if subtle) the surround presentation is. Lynchís voice is contained to the front center channel but music makes its way to the other speakers while quiet, very subtle background effects make their way through them as well, helping to create some disquieting moments suiting to a Lynch film. But there are also a couple of more active instants, including a cutaway to a rain storm which completely envelopes the viewer and is unexpectedly loud, at least in comparison to the rest of the film. Quality is superb, with no distortion or damage present, except where the filmmakers have stylistically added effects. Overall itís a very sharp and active track.

8/10

SUPPLEMENTS

Rather shockingly this is a very sparse edition. Considering its subject matter I would have expected a number of goodies, maybe something similar to fairly stacked edition of Criterionís release of Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words, but in the end we only get one feature: a 16-minute interview with co-director Jon Nguyen. Thankfully it is at least an engaging discussion about making this film, as well as Lynch, the 2007 film Nguyen was involved in while Lynch was making Inland Empire. Lynch is a very private individual so for him to open up for this film is something of a miracle, and Nguyen explains how that relationship started and how carefully he and others had to film Lynch and get him to open up, not pushing him too much (Nguyen explains why the ďMr. SmithĒ story Lynch starts never actually finishes, and part of it was because they knew they couldnít push him in telling it). He then explains the decisions that went into forming the ďnarrativeĒ of the film and constructing the footage from the material. Itís not a long interview, and Iím surprised other participants arenít present, but it manages to be a reasonably rewarding discussion.

The disc then features the filmís theatrical trailer while the included insert features a new essay by Dennis Lim on the film and its intimate portrait of its subject. And thatís it.

This part of the release proves to be especially disappointing, though admittedly, considering the focus and subject matter of the film, Iím hard pressed at what more could have been added, and I guess itís possible Lynch had some say in what supplements could be included here. At the very least the title has been priced appropriately.

3/10

CLOSING

It looks and sounds fine but it doesnít feel like a particularly special release. I think fans of Lynch will enjoy the film but itís one Iíd say is worth picking up on sale.


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