‘What Did Jack Do?’ is Classic David Lynch

A monkey sings a love song to a chicken

Last month, Netflix released What Did Jack Do?, a short film by David Lynch that he made for French TV in 2017. A Lynch short film is a rare event that we need to recognize. Most of his short-form work came early in his career, pre-Eraserhead. Occasionally a short comedy bit will pop up on French TV. And there was his incredibly weird web series, “Rabbits,” in 2002. But mostly he’s worked in features or on Twin Peaks since the early 70s.

 

According to the Internet, it’s “Twin Peaks Day,” because Agent Dale Cooper first drove into the town of Twin Peaks on February 24. Things got a lot more complicated for Agent Cooper after that. But every day is a good day to celebrate the work of David Lynch, America’s weirdest, and possibly greatest, filmmaker. And What Did Jack Do? couldn’t possibly disappoint Lynch fans.

Dale Cooper David Lynch

What Did Jack Do? is a two-character play. Lynch filmed it in grainy black-and-white. It takes place in a train station, presumably at some point in the semi-distant past. David Lynch, playing some sort of mix of himself and of his Twin Peaks FBI agent character Gordon Cole, interrogates Jack Cruz, played by the same monkey who played Marcel on Friends. Lynch and Jack have a sort-of conversation that largely consists of clichés from old film-noir dialogue, though it becomes clear that Lynch is trying to pin a murder on Jack. It also comes out that Jack is in love with a chicken named Toototoban.

Jack “speaks”, in a voice that also sounds suspiciously like Lynch’s, with human lips superimposed onto his face, using a version of the old “Syncro-Vox” technique from the Clutch Cargo cartoons. The conversation goes on for at least 10 minutes, interrupted only by a waitress bringing Jack a cup of coffee. And then, to cap it all, Jack sings a beautiful love song to Toototoban before all hell breaks loose in a tragic off-screen noir ending.

You’d have to classify this strange dream film as a comedy. It certainly doesn’t have the eerie overtones of Rabbits, which begins with a two-minute sequence of a rabbit doing her ironing while a single-toned droning note plays behind her. That is for film students only. Non-Lynch fans will probably watch What Did Jack Do? and wonder what the hell is happening, but given the entirety of Lynch’s weird body of work, it falls into the “almost accessible” camp.

For me, someone who loves film noir, thinks that Twin Peaks: The Return is one of the greatest TV shows ever made, and who puts Mullholland Drive in his list of top-20 all time favorite movies, What Would Jack Do? is a slam-dunk grand-slam home-run and a dozen other sports clichés. It’s classic David Lynch and a must-see for Lynch lovers. From now on every movie must feature a monkey singing a love song to a chicken, or it will sadden me.

Neal Pollack

Book and Film Globe Editor in Chief Neal Pollack is the author of 11 semi-bestselling books of fiction and nonfiction, including the memoirs Alternadad and Stretch, the novels Repeat and Downward-Facing Death, and the cult classic The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature. He's written articles and humor for every English-language publication except The New Yorker. Neal lives in Austin, Texas, and is a three-time Jeopardy! champion.

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