Friends Paul Lê and Julien Pichard have teamed up to make a wonderfully bizarre, hypothetical David Lynch biopic. The Dreamlife of David L takes a look at what life for Lynch was like during his time at art school, specifically focusing in on his initial artistic endeavors into painting. The film makes no attempt to represent Lynch’s real past, at least not in a historically accurate sense. Instead, the filmmakers seem to be much more interested in tapping into the uncanny vision of the renowned artist and director. In many ways, this approach to a biopic makes it strangely more genuine by tapping into the subjective and losing the burden of claiming complete authenticity. A glossy, Hollywood imagining of someone’s life can often be highly romanticized, often giving you a fairly selective look at someone’s life.
The film does an excellent job of making discreet references to Lynch’s films, without ever taking it to an obvious extreme. There is of course a blue key, a cowboy, and a few other straightforward visual homages. In addition there is great focus on sound in this film—something Lynch’s movies often go out of their way to showcase. In one particularly accomplished example, the camera momentarily wanders away from David entering his studio, and dramatically zooms in on a pipe coming out of his studio wall. The sound cuts out completely except for ominous, industrial whirring sounds that grow unrealistically loud. This choice is very reminiscent of the classic shot in Blue Velvet (1986) when the camera zooms in on the ear in the grass, and the sound grows loud, isolated, and ominous.
The film is consistently surreal throughout, leaving you unsettled and intrigued the entire time. This is another reason the film succeeds—it never solely relies on replications and homages. Instead, the film creates its own bizarre little reality where roommates may or may not exist, fathers serve Jell-O as an entrée, and girls can sway and dance in darkly lit rooms for no reason. You are able to fully immerse yourself in this universe because of how the characters exist. Instead of confusion or disgust, David seems to be intrigued and peaceful in this world. Perhaps the entire thing is a figment of his imagination—it’s unclear, and should be. The film rightly never tries to claim any truths or give any heavy-handed explanations. As long as you allow yourself to go along for the ride, this dreamy “biopic” will fully succeed.
Author: Catherine Haas
Catherine Haas is a native Philadelphian who received her master’s in film history from Columbia University. She is a freelance film programmer, writer, and an avid pug enthusiast.