‘There’s not a day goes by that I don’t think about The Wizard of Oz,’ filmmaker David Lynch said in 2007. Given the volume of references to the film (rather than its literary source) in his body of work, from Blue Velvet’s troubled Dorothy to Glenda the Good Witch’s appearance in Wild at Heart, it isn’t surprising.
Now, film essayist Alexandre O Philippe, whose documentaries include 78/52 (about Hitchcock’s Psycho), Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on The Exorcist and Memory: The Origins of Alien, has invited six filmmakers and one film critic to contribute film essays exploring the influence of the 1939 American classic on Lynch’s work.
Justin Benson (The Endless) argues, with tongue not entirely planted in cheek, that every film owes a debt to The Wizard of Oz – amusingly presenting Apocalypse Now as Exhibit A – before narrowing focus to Lynch’s oeuvre, whereupon Philippe wittily juxtaposes scenes from Wild at Heart with shots of Dorothy looking shocked. David Lowery (The Green Knight) makes a case for Lynch as a populist surrealist before discussing the sinister stories behind the making of The Wizard of Oz, and how the film represented (like Blue Velvet) the dark truth about the American dream, with the Emerald City as fabled ‘shining city on a hill’.
It’s unmissable for fans of David Lynch and/or Wizard of Oz aficionados
Karyn Kusama (Destroyer) traces Lynch’s obsession with curtains and wind back to The Wizard of Oz, and argues convincingly that Mulholland Drive is a kind of ‘companion piece’ in which the reality is more terrifying than the dream. Rodney Ascher, whose film Room 237 explored Kubrick’s The Shining, notes how Marty McFly’s journey in Back to the Future mirrors that of Dorothy, while critic Amy Nicholson suggests that the story of The Wizard of Oz is the story not just of Lynch’s films, but his life: from his idyllic childhood in the American Midwest to his discovery of America’s dark underbelly. Needless to say, John Waters has plenty to say about that.
For Lynch and/or Oz aficionados, Lynch/Oz is unmissable; for every other film fan, it’s a fascinating exploration of the long shadow cast by a seminal work, and its influence on one of the world’s most iconic filmmakers.
In UK cinemas and on demand Dec 2.
David Hughes is the author of ‘The Complete Lynch’, published by Virgin Books.