The exploration of how art influences the artist often seems to be a fruitful endeavor. After all, we do not wake up one morning and decide to create out of thin air. An idea permeates our mind, our soul, and our emotions. It burrows its way into our minds until there is no way forward without engaging in the act of creation. Yet few of us would guess that the nightmarish realities constructed by the auteur David Lynch could relate to Victor Fleming’s The Wizard of Oz, arguably the most famous film ever made. Yet when dissected by many of the most brilliant minds of the film industry, the parallels and ideals reverberate throughout each body of work. After watching Lynch/Oz, it will be impossible to watch one without thinking of the other.
Directed by Alexandre O. Philippe, the film documentarian brings together an eclectic group to dissect the famed auteur. The group includes directors John Waters, Karyn Kusama, and David Lowery, as well as film critic Amy Nicholson. Told in a number of chapters, Lynch/Oz allows its creators to infuse their own experiences into the tale as well. The cyclical nature of it, allowing artists to discuss the influence of Lynch on their life while discussing the influence of Wizard on Lynch, becomes an important document in understanding the process of filmmaking.
The real power in a film like Lynch/Oz comes from the narratives spun by contributors. While framing David Lynch’s Oz-based content from a historical perspective would be fun in its own right, the essayists’ personal connections to the material change what is important. After all, each viewer brings things their own experience to each screening. In the cases of Lowery and Kusama, it becomes clear how someone like Lynch influences their current direction. Contextualizing their own style and vision helps remind us that our influences are far from singular. Instead, we must often consider the influences of our influences to El learn more about ourselves.
The visuals assembled by Phillippe add to the essays by each contributor. Using the same footage across multiple contributors further contributes to his message. The footage from Oz has certainly fused its way into our pop culture. Yet, for Lynch, the meaning of the film is so grand that it can apply to his film in dozens of ways. When looking at the work of a genius like Lynch, it seems impossible for any of these links to be accidental.
Ultimately, the only criticism one can truly levy against Lynch/Oz can be the limitation of the film essay. The narrative is nonexistent. Instead, this film wishes to embrace how these two titans of popular culture intertwine. The only real takeaway from this method is a further highlight of the transitive ideas at play. If you love a film or a star, it’s very likely that the artist was inspired by another piece of art. As the viewer, you should not only seek out that art but understand why that art was so influential. Phillippe’s call for audiences to understand how their favorite creators have been shaped is an important one, but one that offers little in terms of new ideas.