PLAYING AT SIFF | An eye-opening look at David Lynch

If you’ve ever watched or even wandered through a David Lynch movie, surely the question has crossed your mind: How does he come up with this stuff?

But if you’re coming to “David Lynch: The Art Life” expecting answers, you’re clearly one of the people who just wandered through a David Lynch movie. Lynch, in his more than 50 years as a filmmaker, has never been the sort of person to provide easy (or expected) answers. The world’s most popular surrealist has always embraced the strange and the macabre, even as he approaches seemingly mundane subjects. Why would a documentary about his life and his art be any different?

No, instead the film feels like a peek behind the curtain that lets you know just how much further there is to go. Heck, you may even come out of it feeling that his filmic work isn’t the most “out there” thing about him.

In fact, “The Art Life” doesn’t really touch on his directorial work at all. Lynch is now a multihyphenate, having dabbled in various artistic expressions during his years in the biz. But as we learn in “The Art Life,” he started out as a dedicated painter, one of the only outlets he enjoyed doing in school.

The entire film takes place in his studio (presumably at his home in Los Angeles), giving the feel of hanging out in the studio for the day, listening to his musings. He’s alone, aside from a few shots of him working with his daughter Lula. He records audio, he makes art, he smokes a cigarette and lets the smoke plume around him. And then he shares another piece of the David Lynch puzzle.

His tales are mostly chronological, but there’s not exactly a strict logic to them. The rhythm is, as he is wont to do, entirely Lynch’s own. The commentary sprang out of pieced together audio from about 20 different conversations over four years. It covers a fairly wide swath of Lynch’s life — his childhood beginning in Montana and Idaho, through to his adolescence in Philadelphia, and the beginning of his production on “Eraserhead.”

Even when his account seems rosy, there seems to be something lurking under the surface; some gear in his head that’s on a different level than the rest of us.

That’s, perhaps, something that always comes through in the images of the film: sometimes his stories are paired with images from his youth, or pictures of friends and streets mentioned. But often time they’re paired over Lynch working in the studio, or artwork he’s done that’s reminiscent of his subjects (or at least as reminiscent as Lynch’s interpretation can be).

His artwork is just as challenging as one might imagine it’d be — haunting, abstract, and surreal all in one — and his stories manage to hit those same notes.

If it were anyone other than Lynch the pairing of art and journey might be a bit too simple. But again, there’s never anything simple about David Lynch. There aren’t a lot of answers about how he got this way, but after spending some time in “The Art Life” you’ll at least have a peek at the man behind the curtain.

“David Lynch: The Art Life” plays May 5-7 at SIFF Film Center.