A purely self-indulgent exercise in surreal cinematic style, but it’s David Lynch interviewing a monkey, so why not?
Since dropping surreal short films on Netflix is in vogue now, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to see What Did Jack Do? lurking in your thumbnails. But then again, the no-warning release is a David Lynch film and stars Lynch himself as a smoking copper interrogating a capuchin monkey in a railroad cafe, which I suppose is kind of surprising after all.
This isn’t quite like Paul Thomas Anderson’s similarly short-notice short film Anima, which was essentially an elongated music video. What Would Jack Do? is more inscrutable, characterized as it is by Lynch’s enthusiasm for bizarre and disjointed conversation, an off-kilter tone, and walking a fine line between profound sentiment and absolute gibberish. It’s even entirely in black and white for what seems like no reason at all.
The monkey, Jack Cruz, might have killed someone, which you could have guessed from the noirish cigarettes-and-coffee aesthetic before he even opened his deep-faked human mouth. But Jack does open that mouth, and croaky non-sequiturs emergy from it until the film, less than twenty minutes later, is over, and nobody is any the wiser as to what just happened.
Such is the way of auteur directors being allowed to play on a platform like Netflix — you can’t help but wish more of them would go there to sweep out the corners of their imagination that could never secure studio funding. What Did Jack Do? is a formal experiment that exists for no purpose other than to excuse Lynch flexing his stylistic muscles for perplexed onlookers. But what a privilege such a thing can exist at all.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.