It’s not unusual to have a favorite film. But it’s rare to find a movie—or any piece of art, really—that you connect with so profoundly it resonates throughout your life, exerting its influence in surprising ways. Lynch/Oz examines one notable example, burrowing into the ways The Wizard of Oz has influenced the wonderful and strange career of filmmaker David Lynch.
Lynch/Oz is the latest cinema-themed documentary from Alexandre O. Philippe, whose works include zombie-genre exploration Doc of the Dead and 78/52, a near-obsessive study of Psycho’s shower scene. Structured more as a film essay, with narration over a dizzying array of film clips, Lynch/Oz is divided into chapters with different “hosts,” including film critic Amy Nicholson and some of Lynch’s peers: Rodney Ascher (Room 237), Karyn Kusama (Jennifer’s Body, Yellowjackets), Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead (The Endless, Something in the Dirt), David Lowery (The Green Knight, Peter Pan & Wendy), and the great John Waters. Lynch’s participation is limited to secondary material (YouTube videos, a MasterClass snippet), but his voice is well-represented thanks to extensive footage from across his body of work, including his most recent release, Twin Peaks: The Return.
This isn’t just a random idea Philippe is chasing; any fan can tell you that 1990’s Wild at Heart is full of overt Wizard of Oz references. But even beyond that film, we know Lynch has the Emerald City lodged in his brain. He doesn’t go on camera and say it directly here, but in the past—including in front of a film festival audience, as Kusama remembers first-hand—he has remarked that he thinks about Oz every day. Though it does point out how fond Lynch characters are of red shoes, and the way his sets tend to use theatrical curtains, Lynch/Oz is less interested in his use of direct homage. Instead, it’s more intrigued by the ways Victor Fleming’s 1939 classic has infiltrated the themes, character details, mise-en-scène, and moods of both dread and hope that swirl throughout his filmography.
Taking the viewer on an absorbing journey, which is appropriate considering its fascination with the transportive ability of cinema, Lynch/Oz is both film history lesson and unconventional biography. It more than backs up its thesis that a movie as mainstream-beloved as The Wizard of Oz still contains enough mystery to shape the mind of the man who gave us Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, Lost Highway, and Twin Peaks, and whose surreal yet nostalgic style is so singular he has his own adjective—“Lynchian”—to describe it. Like Lynch’s movies, Lynch/Oz is an eye-opening experience; it encourages viewers to remain curious about what they’re watching, but also to not expect explanations for everything. That said, it does reason through the ending of Twin Peaks: The Return with mind-blowing clarity, and be aware: after Lynch/Oz, you’ll need to clear your schedule so that you can re-watch as much David Lynch as possible.
Lynch/Oz is now playing in New York City; it expands to more cities starting June 9.
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