Short black and white film 'What Did Jack Do?' is now on Netflix

Category:  The Arts
Wednesday, February 5th, 2020 at 9:03 PM

It’s common for critics to analyze and unpack a piece of art to understand and interpret the meaning behind things, especially when it’s not made outwardly clear or known. For David Lynch, that sense of mystery and intentional confusion is what draws people to his work for endless study and debate.

Lynch is known for bridging the gap between what is considered “avant-garde” cinema and traditional Hollywood filmmaking, combining the two conventions to create some of the greatest movies in modern history.

His newest work, a 17-minute black-and-white short film titled “What Did Jack Do?,” is typical of his tone, but is nonetheless a sight to behold. The film follows a detective, played by Lynch himself, as he interrogates a capuchin monkey named Jack, voiced by Jack Cruz, about his involvement with a murder.

As the short progresses, the monkey and detective have quite the strange conversation. The questioning becomes more and more cryptic, and Jack becomes more and more irritated. And as the film reaches its surreal climax, no one is really sure what Jack did at all. We’re also not entirely sure if Jack is completely unhinged, telling the truth, or lying as the detective makes valiant attempts to get him to crack. The answer is not made 100% clear, a trope that Lynch has become infamous for.

“What Did Jack Do?” was shot in 2016, and it originally premiered in France in 2017. The short then saw a surprise release at the Festival of Disruption in New York City in 2018, and then saw a surprise worldwide release to Netflix on Jan. 20, the same day as Lynch’s 74th birthday. Weirdly, this actually operates as his follow-up to the beloved murder mystery/horrific fever dream/confusing-as-all-hell “Twin Peaks” revival that aired on Showtime in 2017.

Although surrealism and confusion is what Lynch is known for inflicting onto the world with his films, “What Did Jack Do?” is a bit of a departure from recent work, although not by much. The piece hearkens back to his early short films from his days in film school in the ‘70s, such as “The Grandmother,” “The Amputee,” “The Alphabet,” or “Premonition Following an Evil Deed.” The film also shares some similarities to his 2002 horror web series, “Rabbits,” in the respect that the conversations had between the detective and Jack are increasingly disjointed and odd.

Lynch has been a powerhouse in the realm of avant-garde cinema for going on five decades now, and his goal for a good portion of his films was to either wow or confuse. His influence can be seen practically everywhere, despite his being lumped in with other “arthouse” directors due to his odd and beautifully convoluted ideas.

“What Did Jack Do?” fits in nicely with his work, and it’s safe to say that it might be one of his most oddball pieces to date. As it looks right now, there is still worlds both wonderful and strange to be explored through David Lynch.

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