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Soundtrack review: David Lynch – The art of life (Jonatan Bengta – 2017)

Documentary

Soundtrack review: David Lynch – The art of life (Jonatan Bengta – 2017)

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“David Lynch: The Art Life” looks at Lynch’s art, music, and early films, shining a light into the dark corners of his unique world and giving audiences a better understanding of the man and the artist. As he says, “I think every time you do something, like a painting or whatever, you go with ideas, and sometimes the past can conjure those ideas and color them. Even if they’re new ideas, the past colors them.” We’re invited in and given private views from Lynch’s compound and painting studio in the hills high above Hollywood, as he tells personal stories that unfold like scenes from his films. Strange characters come into focus only to fade again into the past, all leaving an indelible mark. Jonatan Bengta wrote the score.

I used to be a fan of David Lynch and his art but this year things have changed a bit when I saw the long awaited “Twin Peaks” continuation. It wasn’t at all my cup of tea, to put it mildly, so I am not in a very Lynch place right now. But this is about the music, not the man, so let’s go. I expect a lot of quirkiness in this score, even if it starts mildly and innocently with “Homerun”, a chime like cue that’s quite relaxing, unlike anything about David Lynch. It was just the vacation like opening as from the next cue on the music starts sounding a big different. As the score progresses, quirky and weird as I expected, I am happy to discover that at least it’s not repulsive or abrasive. Yes there are sparse sounds that more often than not make it hard to call it film music, there are strange sounds and whirrs, scratching sounds, bell sounds, piano sounds but the point is all of them are comforting to hear, warm and mostly quiet. I can take this kind of strange. At times it almost sounds like a tropical island score, or a score composed in the haze of a cocktail buzz. There are pieces like “Humming guitar” that give me uncomfortable flashbacks but they are rare; and did I hear a fly buzzing on this cue?

I remember I really liked “Mulholland drive” from all the David Lynch movies I saw. Even if it was hardly intelligible in the end I liked the atmosphere, the mood, the slow pace. This is what I feel as I listen to this score; it’s hard to identify themes or melodic lines and it’s hard to choose a cue that I really like or that I would listen to again. But the overall texture, though weird, is strangely fascinating. There are as well moments that turn me off like the uncomfortable “Dead birds in plastic” or “Snappy Phily”, both of which remind me of the more unpleasant parts of David Lynch’s imagination. On the other hand a sparse piano theme like “That thing you are looking for” is just the thing I was looking for in this score.

“David Lynch: The art of life” is quietly Lynchian as the composer studied his subject thoroughly. I listened to it all as the ambient factor was interesting enough to keep me connected. It’s a minimalistic journey with a fragile balance but at least there is a balance which is a nice thing to say about something involving David Lynch after the unhinged “Twin Peaks – the return”.

Cue rating: 71 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 4 / 42

Album excellence: 9%

Highlights:
That Thing You Are Looking For
The Dime

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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