June 13th, 2022
STARRING: JUSTIN BENSON, KARYN KUSAMA, AARON MOORHEAD, RODNEY ASCHER, AMY NICHOLSON. JOHN WATERS
DIRECTED BY: ALEXANDRE O. PHILIPPE
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
I saw The Wizard of Oz for the first time when I was 4 or 5-years old. It quickly became an annual event to watch Dorothy’s journey to Oz with great anticipation for all of its adventure, thrills, humor, melodrama, and of course, that amazing 1939 tornado special effect. I was in awe of the film for many years. Of course, time takes over as does maturity and new cinematic experiences. Several decades later, I encountered the world of David Lynch’s original Twin Peaks television series for the first time in preparation for Showtime’s reboot Twin Peaks: The Return in 2017. I knew for me it would be must-see, prestige TV that would require careful concentration and examination. Little did I know how incredibly connected to that series I would become. I couldn’t wait for each episode to air and by the end deemed it the best TV series of the year. I tried to find others who shared my passion but, alas, I found few amongst my circle of friends, colleagues, and students. Why weren’t they watching this unusual and VERY non-traditional television series? Was it just too weird? Now, thankfully, writer/director Alexandre O. Philippe has brought two of my great passions together in Lynch/Oz, a documentary that painstakingly delves into the worlds of both subjects to find their connections.
Through a series of chapters, with various writers, from Amy Nicholson to John Waters, each providing their take on how the world of Oz has wormed its way into the works of Lynch. Each author loosely takes a motif, such as wind, and offers a myriad of examples of how it weaves its way into these films and television series. Who would have ever thought to compare the gusty winds that overtake Kansas with the wind noises heard in Lynch’s Eraserhead and Twin Peaks? Of course, just making the comparison wouldn’t be enough. Philippe and his authors embark on their own journeys as they explore the similar transcendent experiences taken by characters whether it be Dorothy to Oz or Naomi Watts’s Betty to L.A. in Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. The new reality Dorothy finds in Oz is also interestingly compared to the new realities found by characters in Lynch’s films Dune and The Elephant Man.
While Lynch himself is never interviewed during the documentary, there is archival footage of him working in a studio with a Wizard of Oz photo in the background and another clip of him attempting to play “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” on a trumpet. Lynch is also quoted as saying “that not a day goes by that I don’t think about The Wizard of Oz.” So, as much conjecture as there is here, clearly Lynch has been influenced by the 1939 film. The connections explored are truly fascinating. What is also amazing about this documentary is that Philippe has managed to obtain all of the footage from the films the authors are discussing. (There are no talking heads here, only archival footage.) These are not just clips from the primary subjects at hand, but other various cinematic comparisons, from Back to the Future to The Big Lebowski or from Scorsese to Spielberg. It seems as if the entire history of cinema is addressed in one form or another throughout this film.
It is here though that it loses its way a bit as some of the writers spend a bit much time discussing their own works. For instance, John Waters discusses how all of his films have been influenced by Oz in one way or another. Similarly, the film references Apocalypse Now and It’s a Wonderful Life and their connections to Oz. After watching some of these scenes and deep dives, as interesting as they are, my thoughts quickly turned to, “okay, but what about Lynch here?” To be clear, this didn’t bother me as much as it will bother viewers who want an out and out connection between the two major subjects. This film was made by Phillipe, who has previously created separate documentaries on Hitchcock’s shower scene in Psycho, William Friedkin’s The Exorcist, and the origins of the film Alien. In other words, this documentary is for true cinephiles, those who are interested in as much minutia as they can get about some of the most significant films in the history of cinema. Perhaps Philippe is trying too hard and attempting too much. That’s okay with me. I reveled in this project. I haven’t seen Lynch’s Wild at Heart and that’s a film of his with with even more references to The Wizard of Oz. It has, however, opened up new doors for me, inspired me to have an eye for new details in Lynch’s work, as it likely will for other die hard film connoisseurs.
It also helps if you’re interested in some of these artists’ philosophies, everything from reality, to the doppelganger nature of America, stemming from an over idealized view of our society in the 1950s. Think of this as a series of essays in visual form instead of a book (remember what that was?), covering the same subjects by different authors with varying perspectives. I eat this stuff up- but I don’t know that much of the rest of the world will – it certainly won’t interest my friends who couldn’t even bother to watch Twin Peaks: The Return. Still, I’m glad to have been able to take this journey, diving deeply down the yellow brick road into these two works in ways I’ve never even considered. Lynch/Oz is a new peek at the man behind the curtain.
LYNCH/OZ IS CURRENTLY STREAMING AS PART OF TRIBECA AT HOME. TICKETS AND A LINK TO THE FILM CAN BE FOUND AT https://tribecafilm.com/films/lynch-oz-2022.
3 ½ STARS
Written by: Dan Pal