Rating: 4 out of 5
David Lynch stopped making movies after his magnum opus Inland Empire released to confusion and hysteria. He turned towards his other passion, painting, and as evidenced by his return to filmmaking in Twin Peaks: The Return, his approach to cinema has only become more painterly and abstract. His cinema has expanded upon the early experiments in “film painting” by Hans Richter, Lotte Reiniger and Mary Ellen Butte. He, more than any other filmmaker, comes closest to the “absolute film” spoken of in early film theory. What did Jack Do?, his latest Netflix exclusive, is inexplicable and obtuse, despite only running for a short seventeen minutes. There are layers of mystery within the repeated phrases, droll black-and-white imagery, and dissonant plot movements.
Lynch’s sound design has always been distinct and bare, favoring canyons of empty space juxtaposed with harsh metallic screeches and crackling forgotten pop-relics. What did Jack Do? Is a brief example of his mastery and control over sound. He balances humor and fear through this technique, spoken dialogue disappears into vacuums, the pacing in between dialogue spacious and distant. The lines are as likely to confound, horrify and induce cackles, it’s a testament to his editing skills that the rhythms are so deliberate and effective.
The narrative itself involves Lynch playing a detective interviewing a monkey who may or may not have murdered someone. They are seemingly near a train station. The details are sparse but the mystery is all the more palpable as a result. As far as climaxes go, this one is subdued by Lynch’ standards, however, it’s ephemeral and brief, dissolving quickly into the credits.
This is a must-watch for Lynch-fans, my only complaint is that I wish it was much longer. What did Jack Do? Is a bittersweet reminder that David Lynch has been and always will be one of the most vital and particular creators in the medium. As soon as he’s returned, he disappears back into secrecy like smoke. This could be the last time we hear from him, or the beginning of a new chapter, either way, Lynch will surprise us.