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Lynch/Oz Review

Lynch/Oz Review

“There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t think about The Wizard of Oz”. So said David Lynch at a 2001 screening of Mulholland Drive attended by Karyn Kusama. She – along with Amy Nicholson, John Waters, Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead, Rodney Ascher, and David Lowery – is a contributor of one of the six video essays that makes up Alexandre O Phillippe’s documentary Lynch/Oz, which explores the links between those two titans of American culture.

These links are manifold. This is most notable in Wild at Heart, which – beyond loosely following the basic narrative structure – features numerous textual allusions to the classic movie (the clicking of a pair of red shoes, the appearance of Glinda the Good Witch, references to the Emerald City and the Yellow Brick Road etc.). Overall though, the essays that make up Lynch/Oz are more concerned with the subtler stylistic parallels. These span from Nicholson connecting the vital role that wind plays in Oz to the eerie sound effect that permeates numerous Lynch projects, to Kusama on the function of doppelgangers in Oz and Lynch’s work, and various contributors on Lynch’s love of dramatic stage curtains (as in the one the Wizard hides behind), and cinematic nostalgia.

Each essay runs about fifteen minutes in length, and is narrated by the individual contributors, which gives them plenty of time and opportunity to put their own spin on the thesis. Some seem to cast doubt on the point of the whole project, like Ascher, who argues that the basic elements of The Wizard of Oz are so generic that they could be applied to most American movies (on Star Wars: “Is that an Oz narrative? Is everything?”). Perhaps not surprising in a documentary where the majority of the contributors are filmmakers themselves, many talk as much about the connection of their own work to Oz, like the ever entertaining John Waters, who also shares tales of his friendship with Lynch.

Whilst all six of the video essays are enjoyable and perceptive to varying degrees, the main problem with Lynch/Oz is that they remain separate – as such, certain clips and assertions are repeated multiple times, often to diminishing effect. These essays aren’t in conversation with one another, they’re monologues. In a dense, granularly-detailed documentary film that runs nearly two hours, that can get wearying.

And by the time all six of them are over, although they’ve presented us with dozens of pertinent little observations, the presiding question you’re left with is – is that it? Whilst it seems churlish to complain about a documentary that promises to explore the parallels between Lynch and Oz and proceeds to do so, the dearth of connective tissues linking the essays, and the relative lack of a grander idea at its centre makes the film appear rather frivolous; it’s akin to a video you’d watch on YouTube, think “Hmm, that’s interesting”, and then promptly forget you’d ever seen.

On a moment-by-moment basis Lynch/Oz is consistently entertaining, but ultimately, it feels rather empty.


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