If Only Lynch/Oz Had More of a Brain

From The Wiz to Wicked, from Toto to “friends of Dorothy,” arguably no American film has influenced fashionable consciousness greater than Victor Fleming’s 1939 The Wizard of Oz. And but its lingering thematic and visible presence in David Lynch’s filmography may come, to some, as a shock. After all, most of us first watch The Wizard of Oz as kids; Lynch’s fare usually veers so darkish that full-grown adults want a visible and conceptual palate-cleanser earlier than heading to mattress. For these causes, Alexandre O. Philippe’s Lynch/Oz would appear a must-see for followers of the yellow brick highway or the Great Northern Hotel of Twin Peaks. If solely.

What may have been a riveting exploration of how one of the weirdest American film classics formed one of our weirdest up to date auteurs is, as a substitute, a sequence of desultory video essays narrated by critics and administrators who, from time to time, appear to know little about movie or movie historical past. Somehow almost each canonical movie is “like” The Wizard of Oz — from The Miracle Worker to The Big Lebowski. The movie’s late-Depression context and queer enchantment are virtually fully handed over as audio system rhapsodize about what are extremely frequent narrative themes and plot factors throughout not simply cinema, however each Western and Eastern storytelling: a bodily journey bringing about an epiphany, a portal into a new and international world, asymmetries of energy, and so forth. 

Much of what’s thematically traced to The Wizard of Oz additionally applies to the books that preceded it: Frank Baum’s 1900 kids’s novel upon which it was based mostly, Lewis Carroll’s 1865 Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, or C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia sequence — to not point out older texts like Homer’s The Iliad and the Odyssey or the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh. Lynch/Oz demonstrates how all nice filmmakers construct on the work of nice filmmakers earlier than them — from Antonioni to Arthur Penn to George Lucas. “Is that an Oz narrative?” asks director Rodney Ascher, commenting on Luke Skywalker touring to the Death Star to hitch the Rebellion. “Is everything?”

Still from Lynch/Oz

But if “everything” is an Oz narrative, then why deal with David Lynch? Lynch/Oz is most compelling when the display screen splits to match placing visible parallels between the fantasy musical and Lynch moments: the depraved witch who all of a sudden seems in Lost Highway (1997), Naomi Watts’s Dorothy-like awe as she arrives in Hollywood in Mulholland Drive (2002), the preponderance of ruby pink sneakers donned by Lynch’s feminine characters. Filmmakers John Waters and Karyn Kusama provide the one redeeming commentary, with distinct, evidence-backed claims particular to The Wizard of Oz and the way it influenced Lynch and different administrators.

“There will not be a day that goes by that I don’t take into consideration The Wizard of Oz,” Lynch has mentioned of the movie — and from the excerpts of his work on this doc, it’s not onerous to consider that. But by evaluating this cinematic touchstone to so many films, of so many kinds, a number of having nothing to do with Lynch (Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America?), Philippe dilutes the thesis of the movie. For these with solely a stumbling grasp of movie historical past or storytelling staples, Lynch/Oz might show insightful (“look, all these movies contain similar conflicts or plot points!”), however for many who need a deeper understanding of both The Wizard of Oz or Lynch’s singular oeuvre, this doc will disappoint.

Lynch/Oz is at the moment in theaters.

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