Fittingly, What Did Jack Do seemed to come out of absolutely nowhere. There was no promotion from Netflix – I couldn’t even find the thing on their front page – and the concept of Lynch using a monkey in a short had only been sporadically whispered in interviews. So when it did arrive, fully formed and ready to stream, we were blindsided. A new David Lynch project? Count me in! We may have expected some degree of oddness (I would have been desperately disappointed if there was none), but this complete lack of preamble does allow the hilarious nonsense that makes up this 17 minute short to impact you on a strangely deep level.
The plot, if there is one to speak of, involves Lynch himself playing a detective in a smoky noir diner as he interviews a well-dressed monkey regarding the murder of someone named Max. This is, of course, played entirely straight – the fact that Jack is a small primate is certainly addressed, as is the reveal that his former lover is a chicken, but at no point is it questioned, nor does Lynch ever give in to the temptation to knowingly make jokes with the audience about the weirdness of it all. Eventually, the film shifts into a musical number, sung from the mismatched human mouth that sits upon Jack’s face. Though analyzing Lynch’s films beyond acknowledging their surrealism and atmosphere often proves futile, you can read this odd little creation as a nostalgic exercise in pure style; the power of old Hollywood neo-noir visuals and tropes alone is enough to engage viewers and carry a completely nonsensical narrative.
I should now mention that I was laughing hysterically for most of this film, and that David Lynch has a wonderful sense of humour. I admit that much of the fun does come from being a longtime fan of his, and that it might not be quite as amusing for someone who isn’t familiar with his chipper yet mysterious persona, but watching Lynch ask a small monkey whether he’s ever been ‘a card-carrying member of the communist party’ is undeniably delightful. You can try to watch this for some kind of deeper meaning, or because you’re trying to complete his illustrious filmography, but honestly, put it on if you’re feeling stressed – all of your worries will be washed away by the image of a 70-year-old director chasing down a capuchin with a tiny gun.
If you’re a Lynch fan, you’ve likely already seen this, and I’m sure you were as charmed as I was. If you aren’t as familiar with his other work, stick this on and see how you feel; even if you hate it, you’ll no doubt find it creeping back into your thoughts for days to come.