Film Reviews
Photo courtesy of Janus Films.

Director Alexandre O. Philippe has crafted two unusual documentaries: “Lynch/Oz,” a film divided into six chapters and “The Taking.” Each has different, offscreen analysts expounding on their interpretations of film connections and ideas. Addressing David Lynch’s surrealist cinematic adventures, the touchstone is “The Wizard of Oz,” which, based on research, Philippe asserts is the “most influential movie ever made.”

He further maintains that interrogating Lynch’s “visual language and leitmotifs,” obsessively informed by “Oz,” might crack “the code of that singular fairy tale’s hold on the American psyche . . . America’s dreams, aspirations, and fears.” Philippe accurately confirms in this film through interview excerpts that Lynch resists interpreting his own films. Years ago I attended a Cannes Film Festival press conference with Lynch, at which he made that reluctance abundantly clear. Nevertheless, undeterred, “Lynch/Oz” pursues analysis with quite mixed results.

The nonstop film clips, often in split screen, present various striking comparisons and contrasts, both visually and thematically, from Lynch’s work. “The Wizard of Oz’s” influence, acknowledged by him, is extensive, though that film itself marries many archetypal ideas. Thus the “Lynch/Oz” narrators’ commentary alternates between insightful and superficial, engaging and annoying with jumbled sequences in terms of any clear organization.

Similarly, writer/director Philippe’s “The Taking” consists of strings of film clips, here focused on Monument Valley. That puts director John Ford’s obsessive appropriation of that Valley’s buttes and valleys front and center as, again, voiceover narrators, unidentified until the end credits, critique the by-now realization that Ford and others shamefully misrepresented Indians, the real West, and sovereign Navajo/Diné land. A reminder of the mythic inventions and reinforced fantasy is worthwhile, but the eclectic choice of clips and stream of consciousness unfurling here undermine the important message.

“The Taking” screens Thursday, July 13, at 7:30; “Lynch/Oz” Friday, July 14, through Sunday, July 16, both at Webster University’s Winifred Moore auditorium at 7:30 each of those evenings. For more information, you may visit the film series website.

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