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Portrait of the Artist as Transcendental Meditator

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Lynch in Lynch

The director of Lynch, a documentary about the uncompromising filmmaker, artist, and popularizer of Transcendental Meditation David Lynch, is credited as "blackANDwhite," and I hope I can be excused for assuming that none other than Lynch himself was hiding behind the pseudonym. Too familiar were the grainy video look and the seamless shifting into monochrome dreamspaces set to haunting music, too close the access Lynch gave the director to suspect anything but a thinly veiled self-portrait. However, Filmmaker Magazine just revealed that a young protege of Lynch's made the film, and I had to rewrite my lede.
Shot during the production of 2006's INLAND EMPIRE and planned as a trilogy, Lynch allows Lynch to show off the same folksy charm and unshakable faith in his own weird intuition that made last year's book Catching the Big Fish such a satisfying read. For Lynch, the boundaries between making art and having fun are fluid -- whether he's dying a jacket green or celebrating Bastille Day, he does his best to dispel the myth that one has to suffer in order to create. He also makes a few salient points about the motivation for art: "Don't do it for the fruit. Do it for the doing. If you don't enjoy doing it, do something else."

The things Lynch enjoys doing don't just involve holding pens, cigarettes or cameras; he's also wielding paint brushes and saws, hammering through a set's plywood walls, and treating floors on all fours. His crisply ironed shirts come untucked. In low angles shot from somewhere near the cigarette-littered floors of his various workspaces, Lynch shows the master doing the weather report for his video webcast and telling hair-raising stories about his days in Philadelphia ("before cops were pigs"). In one dreamy sequence set to moody music by Sune Martin, Lynch recounts with relish an obscure French film that involves the gutting of a horse. Casting decisions are made between meditation sessions and power walks.

David Lynch reflects on his work in Lynch

In what would become part of the inspiration for INLAND EMPIRE, Lynch travels to Poland to photograph run-down factories and testing them for echoes with the distinctly Lynchian shout: "Hey, Sally! You remember me?!" Once shooting is underway, he gives Jeremy Irons and Laura Dern direction on a freezing street in Lodz and various Hollywood sound stages. The making-of footage (some of which could be seen in the special features on the DVD) add another layer of meta-narrative to the already maddeningly knotty INLAND EMPIRE.

But Lynch isn't a vanity puff piece, and Lynch doesn't portray himself as a genius perpetually high on transcendental bliss: we witness him telling off a tardy collaborator on the phone, and he orders his underlings around ruthlessly. In a particularly revelatory passage, he confesses to moments of depression and confusion, which he turns into a monologue on the nature of "not-knowing" that would leave Donald Rumsfeld's head spinning. He also has a quip about the genius of Albert Einstein that's too good to ruin here.

For Lynchians, all of this is catnip. But even if you don't have much of a taste for Lynch's movies, I imagine it would be difficult not to be inspired -- or at least impressed -- by this forthright portrait of a sincere and fertile artist with the courage to follow his ideas wherever they lead. Who else could say, with complete conviction and justification: "I need a one-legged 16-year old girl, and I need a pet monkey!" To quote one of Lynch's favorite words: "Wow!"
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