Alexandre O. Philippe explores the connections between David Lynch’s work and ‘The Wizard of Oz’
I think I am one of the few former children who suffered a trauma after watching The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland: I started enjoying the fun and intriguing aspects of these two stories as grown-up kid, but as a child I found many of the things I saw in those films at least disturbing.
So I’m not surprised to know that The Wizard of Oz, precisely, was one of David Lynch’s biggest inspirations and that Swiss director Alexandre O.Philippe decided to explore the connections between the two in his new documentary film, Lynch/Oz.
Philippe is an expert in making films about films and this is not his first attempt: The People vs. George Lucas (2010) and 78/52 (2017) (an examination of Psycho shower scene, by Alfred Hitchcock) are some of his best.
Lynch/Oz was presented in the Freestyle section at the 17th edition of Rome Film Festival. The film opens in a very familiar way to American director’s fans: smoke, curtains, a host who introduces the six-part show. Every part is connected to an element from the 1939’s The Wizard of Oz by Victor Fleming that, over the years, became a recurring obsession for Lynch.
Different voices lead the audience through a world made up of dreams, nightmares and wonders: from the film critic Amy Nicholson, to director John Waters, each essayist tells a story behind the story, turning Lynch/Oz into an unfolding tale.
Watching sequences from Lynch’s films with a keen eye, we start seeing the details: the name Dorothy, the wind, the red shoes are all recurring elements in many of his works. The film itself had an influence on the director, but the performance of Garland, who played the leading role, had a deep impact as well: she died at 47 after a life of fame and pain. Many of Lynch’s female characters seem to embody that suffering.
Lynch/Oz is also an invitation, by Lynch himself, to stop trying to find a universal meaning to the inexplicable in his art and look for a personal connection with his work. In this documentary there’s a bit of everything: poetry, comedy, thriller, some backstage moments from Twin Peaks, Wild at Heart in which you will see some of your favorite actors really enjoying working for their mentor.
The optimistic portrait of Lynch that emerges from this film might surprise some of the viewers: exploring the darkness is just the adventure of adulthood, which the filmmaker finds as fun as the experience of being a child.
Philippe’s film also includes archive material, especially interviews, in which Lynch himself declares his love for Victor Fleming’s Oz and expresses his idea of cinema: having solid foundations in real life, lets his art be free to explore the unconscious and the darkest corners of the human soul from a safe place.