Writer/Director/Producer David Lynch is a singular artist who has been making films since the 60s. His first feature, Eraserhead was released in 1977, and he’s still going strong. To even attempt to describe Lynch’s style, words like strange, weird, avant garde, and unconventional come to mind. There is a style and feel to all of his pictures that undoubtedly says “this is a David Lynch movie and don’t you forget it..”
Lynch’s latest film, a 17 minute short entitled What Did Jack Do? has recently landed on Netflix and it may just be the most David Lynch a movie can be. The action of the movie is simple. David Lynch interrogates a monkey in a train station for 17 minutes. Feel free to go back and read that again. The entire film is director David Lynch conversing with a talking monkey, and just when you thought it couldn’t get any weirder, the monkey (Jack Cruz as himself) breaks into song. That’s it. That’s the movie.
Set in a train station that looks like a leftover set from the early days of television and filmed in black and white, What Did Jack Do? evokes an early 50s film noir sensibility. Although it isn’t overtly stated, Lynch plays a detective who questions Jack about a past crime in this absurdist dialogue made up of old sayings, animal puns, and cliches. It feels like an absurdist play written by either a beginner who’s a wannabe Samuel Beckett, or by an older writer who no longer cares whether he sounds pretentious or not. With such lines like, “there’s an elephant in the room. I’d like you to start talking turkey,” it’s rather miraculous that Lynch manages to not to look like a complete ass.
This is a film as with most of Lynch’s work is something you’re either up for or you’re not. It can be appreciated as an absurdist art film, a curiosity of sorts, or as an amusement that makes you chuckle even though you’re not sure why. Is it intentionally funny or too weird to be taken seriously? Is he just putting one over on us and the people at Netflix to see how many people will actually watch? It’s impossible to say.
It almost feels as if Lynch is going through a second adolescence. What Did Jack Do? is a student film made by a master. Lynch is making art for the sake of making art, and there’s something to be said for that. If you appreciate David Lynch, art films, and absurdist cinema, you’ll probably get a kick out of this short. If you want to see a movie made by someone who is at the point in his career where he can just make art without being concerned about box office or viewership numbers, or if you have 17 minutes to kill and want to see a singing monkey, I highly recommend this film.