New 4K restorations of two David Lynch masterpieces, his influential debut feature, “Eraserhead” (1977), which he has called “a dream of dark and troubling things,” and “Mulholland Dr.” (2001), a peerless thriller of confused identities, which often tops critics’ polls, are highlights of a 19-film celebration of the visionary director, “The Films of David Lynch.” Included in the program are Lynch’s eight additional features, seven shorts, and “Meditation, Creativity and Peace,” which documents his tour discussing transcendental meditation and how it affects his work.
The two-week series also features the theatrical premiere of the fascinating documentary (arguably, the director’s self-portrait), “David Lynch: The Art Life,” directed by Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes and Olivia Neergaard-Holm. The film cuts between current footage of Lynch working (and smoking) in his beautiful indoor/outdoor studio in the Hollywood Hills (he’s been a serious, prolific painter since his early teens), and chronological flashbacks to his life, employing archival photographs, shots of his paintings, drawings and early experimental films. Lynch narrates in hypnotic voiceover, in his American accent, telling the story of his exceptionally happy childhood with loving, supportive parents Edwina (“Sunny”) and Donald, two siblings and friends. Teenage acting out followed and then, discovering painting through a friend’s artist father and what he calls “the art life,” which he romanticized as, “You drink coffee, you smoke cigarettes and you paint…maybe some girls come into it a little bit…the incredible happiness of working.”
Lynch’s imagery developed early, including, faces and figures, formally and psychologically distressed, elongated arms, houses, planes, and text. He fled a Boston art school and landed at one in Philadelphia where his work flourished despite (or perhaps because of the “thick fear in the air..sickness, corruption” in the late 60s). One night in his cubicle studio at school, an unfinished 4’x4′ green painting suddenly suggested the artist’s direction, “Moving painting…with sound. That idea stuck in my head.”
An unexpected grant from AFI and subsequent admission to The Center for Advanced Film Studies (housed in a Beverly Hills mansion/estate), opened up Lynch’s art practice to include narrative feature filmmaking. Living and working in the school’s stables, he handmade “Eraserhead.” Footage shows him with cinematographer Fred Elmes and star Jack Nance, and creating the sets. Lynch says that making his first feature was “One of my greatest, happiest experience in cinema…building everything and have it go the way I wanted.”
“The Films of David Lynch” will open at IFC Center on Friday, March 24 and runs through Thursday, April 6. “David Lynch: The Art Life” will open on Friday, March 31 for a one-week run, with a Q&A with Jon Nguyen following the 7:15 pm show that evening and on Saturday, April 1. The documentary will open in Los Angeles on Friday, April 14.