In a dark, black-and-white station, the train has been delayed. Though we never actually see them, a waitress (Emily Stofle) says that there are cops swarming the station. At a small table, a Capuchin monkey named Jack (voiced, according to the credits, by Jack Cruz) waits for his order. A white-haired Detective (played by director David Lynch) takes a seat across from the monkey. Both the Detective and the monkey are wearing dark suits.
The Detective and Jack have a conversation. At first, it seems like they’re just tossing out random comments. The Detective mentions farm animals and says that he knows why the chicken cross the road. Jack says that he works as a pipe cleaner. The Detective asks Jack if he’s ever been a card-carrying member of the communist party. Jack avoids the question.
As the interrogation continues, we start to pick up on small patterns and a story emerges. Jack is in love with a hen named Toototaban. The Detective thinks that Jack murdered a musician named Max Clegg. Jack says that it was probably the janitor. The Detective is firm in his belief that Jack is guilty. Jack is only interested in talking about how much he loved Tootataban. He even sings a song about her and it’s about as touching as a song sung by a monkey in love with a chicken can be.
What does it all amount too, this 17-minute noir film from David Lynch? Who knows? With an artist like Lynch, it’s always tempting to read too much into what you’re seeing. I’m personally of the theory that many of Lynch’s most debated films and celebrated images were constructed with no particular logic beyond the fact that it would be an interesting film or a striking image. Lynch is an artist who creates cinematic dreams and most dreams are simply a collection of random feelings and concerns. It’s not until we start trying to piece it all together that we find any deeper meaning and that meaning is usually dependent on our own individual thoughts and obsessions.
What is What Did Jack Do about? Personally, I think it’s about exactly what it says it’s about. It’s about a detective interrogating a monkey in a train station. Why is he interrogating a monkey? Why not? Why is the monkey in love with a hen? Even Jack admits that part is weird but I guess it could happen. Personally, I wouldn’t worry too much about the why of it all.
Instead, just enjoy it for what it is, an intriguingly weird 17-minute film. David Lynch has developed into a pretty good actor and he does a great job playing the law-and-order detective. He delivers his dialogue in a rapid-fire, staccato manner. Meanwhile, Jack is as crude as you would expect a monkey to be. The film is both funny and also somewhat ominous. That dark train station is full of shadows and, as you listen to the Detective and Jack try to outwit each other, it’s hard not to think about what might be lurking in the those shadows.
What Did Jack Do? has actually been around for a while. Apparently, it was first screened in France way back in 2017. (The copyright notice at the end of the film lists 2016.) That said, it didn’t premiere in the United States until it showed up on Netflix back in January. So, as far as I’m concerned, this is one of the best films of 2020 so far. Be sure to watch it if you haven’t already. Can you figure out what Jack did?