Typing David Lynch’s name into Netflix (in Australia, anyway) will get you two results: his 2000 dream-horror nightmare Mulholland Drive, which was recently voted the greatest film of this century so far by BFI, and a new title, What Did Jack Do.
What the hell? When Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks: The Return came back to television screens two years ago, it was a totally incendiary and unforgettable piece of media that warranted a flood of reactions and recaps. Where’s the love for this surprise announcement of a new Lynch cinematic work?
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Is this film really so minor as to appear on Netflix without any pomp and circumstance, available to the public for free? The answer is a huge YES, and that’s not a bad thing. If we never get another feature-length work from the American bizarre auteur, there’s still plenty of nostalgic weirdness to unpack here.
What Did Jack Do features all of the best Lynchian trademarks in delightfully compact form, from Eraserhead’s gritty black and white visuals and warped sound design, to Twin Peaks’ fetishisation of 1950s diner culture in the form of great coffee and pretty waitresses. Strangest of all is Lynch’s cast – himself, as an interrogative bad cop type, and a terrified-looking capuchin monkey as Jack, the skittish suspect of the murder of Max Clegg. Jack even sings a tear-jerking Roy Orbison-esque torch song at the end!
The dialogue here is all non sequiturs about Santa Claus and paper bag manufacturing, delivered in the cynical cadence of any great 1940s film noir standoff. While the 17-minute long short might not scratch the same existential itch that Lynch’s dark features represent, the quiet announcement of the short, and its surprise release, sent a certain demographic of cinephiles into a bit of a tizzy.
Take 17 minutes out of your own day to bask in the dada gibberish of this surprisingly joyous short. In a cinema landscape where Netflix can generally be seen as an omnipotent force of homogenous blandness, it’s heartening to see that David Lynch is still gonna be David Lynch.