10 of the Best David Lynch Quotes from a New Documentary on His Life

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The Art Life, a new documentary on filmmaker David Lynch, plays like a slow, smoky afternoon in the artist’s Los Angeles studio. We watch as Lynch drags on a cigarette, choosing his words carefully. His unusual sentences seem to wander off rather than end, and he recounts quaint stories of running free in suburban cul-de-sacs until his father bellowed to the neighborhood that it was time for dinner.

Rather than dig into the backstory of Lynch’s acclaimed film and television work like Blue Velvet, Mullholland Drive, and Twin Peaks — directors Jon Nguyen and Rick Barnes focus on how he got there. They explore his early and lasting interest in painting, happy childhood, and youthful theories about art. Endearing memories of 1950s Americana are paired with shots of Lynch playing with his young daughter, and images of his paintings. But for fans, the film is at its best when the director unfurls his own musings, tackling everything from mud to marriage. Here are some of those excellent moments:


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The Beauty of Mud 
“I remember Sandpoint Idaho, little Dicky Smith, my friend, he and I sat in a mud puddle under this tree. My mother dug a hole, or my dad did, that we could sit in, in the hot weather, and they filled it with, you know, water from the hose, and we’d sit in this mud puddle. It was so beautiful, and you’d get to squeeze mud and sit with your friend and under the shade of this tree, forget it.”

Coloring Books and Creativity
“Because I was always drawing, my mother did, this is the greatest thing she did, one of the greatest things, she refused to ever have me have coloring books. She did not do that for my brother or my sister. Somehow a really beautiful thing came to her that [coloring books] would be restrictive, and kill some kind of creativity.”

Foundation of Love
“I never heard my parents argue, ever, about anything. They got along like Ike and Mike — superhappy household. As I look back, I didn’t think anything of it, but I had tremendous freedom: No one was overbearing, it was as if there was just a foundation of love, and off we went, each in our own direction.”

On Seeing a Woman Naked for the First Time
“It was in the fall, and it was pretty late. Usually my father would go out and yell, ‘John, David…,’ and that would bring us home. But this night, it must have been, I don’t know, close to that time, it seemed to be pretty late. I don’t know what we were doing, but from across Shoshone Avenue, out of the darkness, comes this, kind of like, strangest dream, because I had never seen an adult woman naked. And she had beautiful pale white skin and she was completely naked, and I think her mouth was bloodied. And she kind of came strangely, walking strangely across Shoshone, and came into Park Circle Drive, and it seemed like she was sort of like a giant, and she came closer and closer, and my brother started to cry, something was bad wrong with her, and I don’t know what happened. I think she sat down on a curb, crying, but it was very mysterious, like we were seeing something otherworldly, and I wanted to do something for her, but I was little. I didn’t know what to do.”

Happiness of Working
“The art spirit sort of became the art life, and I had this idea that you drink coffee, you smoke cigarettes, and you paint, and that’s it. Maybe, maybe, girls come into it a little bit, but basically it’s the incredible happiness of working and living that life.”

How to Fail
“I knew my stuff sucked, but I needed to burn through, I needed to find what was mine, and the only way to find it is just to keep painting, and keep painting, and see if you catch something.”

A Moving Painting With Sound
“I was painting a painting about four-foot square and it was mostly black but had some green plants and leaves coming out of the black, and I was sitting back probably taking a smoke, looking at it, and from the painting, I heard a wind, and the greens started moving, and I thought, ‘Oh, a moving painting, but with sound. And that idea stuck in my head. A moving painting.”

“I thought when I got married, ‘Oh that’s it, that’s it. In some way your life is over.’ But, it was actually the best thing that could have happened to me, because you know there are certain things that come along that get you off the dime, you know what I mean.”

Eraserhead, His Happiest Experience in Cinema
Eraserhead, to me, was one of my greatest, happiest experiences in cinema, and what I loved about it was the world, and having it be my own little place where I could build everything and get it exactly the way I wanted it for hardly any money. It just took time, and it just was so beautiful. Everything about it. Everything about it.” 

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