Tag Archives: David Lynch

SHORT: WHAT DID JACK DO? (2017)

366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.

Recommended

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: David Lynch

PLOT: A detective interrogates a monkey suspected of murder.

Still from What Did Jack Do (2017)

COMMENTS: David Lynch made the curious short “What Did Jack Do?” in 2017 for a French museum exhibit, and screened it once more at his own Festival of Disruption in 2018. Other than that, this bit of monkey business was an overlooked footnote in his filmography, until Netflix dropped it onto their streaming service on January 20, 2020 (on Lynch’s 74th birthday).

Shot in Eraserheadian black and white, with Lynchian signatures like coffee and a left-field musical number1, “Jack” is basically a two-hander (almost a one-hander, since Lynch not only plays the interrogating detective, but also provides the monkey’s voice). There is a plot, of sorts, but mostly, it’s the detective and his simian suspect trading absurdist quips that occupy a space between the ineffably sinister and the ambiguously cliched: “Don’t worry. I’ve heard the phrase ‘birds of a feather flock together.’ A perceived fundamental. There are, of course, exceptions.”

“What Did Jack Do?” is, in essence, Lynch futzing around with the Surrealist potentialities of Syncro-Vox—the technique pioneered in the 1950s in which human lips are superimposed over animals or animated characters. Lynch’s experiment is extremely sophisticated, with his usual attention to detail: visually, the lips are blended so well that they almost pass as a real feature of the Capuchin monkey, remaining just off enough to supply an uncanny undertone that harmonizes wonderfully with the overt absurdity of a talking monkey in a suit and tie. Jack’s face is, of course, blank, and his gaze flits randomly, but depending on dialogue Lynch chooses to put in his mouth he can appear lovesick, resentful, or nervous. That’s a wonderful surrealist illusion. The result, while arguably slim, is still arresting and worth your time—and it goes without saying, a must-see for Lynch completists.

I showed it to a young Lynch neophyte; her main takeaway was “Jack is cute!”

Netflix’s business practices give them a lot to answer for, but they deserve credit when they get it right.  “What Did Jack Do?” is a super-niche offering that won’t be bringing the streamer new subscribers, but they’ve done a hell of a service to the cinephile community by making it available at all.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“It’s weird as hell, man, and I can’t get enough of it.”–Miles Surrey, The Ringer (Netflix release)

SATURDAY SHORT: ANT HEAD (2018)

Thought Gang was a musical collaboration between director David Lynch and composer Angelo Badalamenti formed after the second season of “Twin Peaks.” Just four days after we posted the music video for “A Real Indication” (1992), Lynch released this even weirder music video featuring the tracks “Frank 2000” and “Woodcutters From Fiery Ships,” from the same lost record.

SATURDAY SHORT: A REAL INDICATION (1992)

This segment doesn’t feature music videos often, but when director and composer Angelo Badalamenti release one that’s been sitting in a vault for a quarter century, that’s a real indication. Their 12-track self-titled album Thought Gang (2018) is available on all major streaming platforms. This song also appears on the Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me soundtrack.

BOOK REVIEW: “ROOM TO DREAM” (2018, DAVID LYNCH & KRISTINE MCKENNA)

As an avowed skeptic, I readily volunteered to review Lynch’s bio-memoir to make sure the artist in question got a fair shake (from a non-“fanboy”), and also so that I might better understand a director about whom I have such mixed feelings. Right off the bat, let me inform you that this book is a very enjoyable read and that anyone who is remotely interested in the life of David Lynch should give it a go.

The format is slightly unconventional. The heavy lifting is done by long-time Lynch associate and friend Kristine McKenna, who provides the academic half of things. She conducted extensive interviews with Lynch’s family, colleagues, and the like, as well as got all the dates of events lined up with impeccable precision. Her half of each chapter comes first, providing the facts for every chunk of David’s (having gotten to know him so well by now, I’m going to call him by his given name) life, starting with token facts about his parents and early childhood. Having known the guy since the late ’70s, she’s on solid footing here, and though I haven’t run her sections through my fact-checker, I have no reason to doubt them.

David’s portion acts as a rejoinder to each of the “academic” chapters, bringing the memoir genre crashing into the more rigorous biographical genre. Coming across so much as a Midwestern all-around swell guy might have been unbelievable had his sections been presented without McKenna’s. However, judging from the remarks, anecdotes, and testimonials of the dozens (and dozens) of people interviewed for this book (and prior works), David comes across in his sections as honest, interesting, and, again, swell.

Room to Dream moves chronologically in structure, and breaking down the chapters so that each covers a specific big project (such as the hard work of Eraserhead, the serendipity of the Elephant Man, and the trial-by-producer-fiat of Dune) allows the book to be read in bits and bobs over a long course of time without compromising narrative flow. As I said before, it is all eminently readable and fun, and the reason I’ve avoided quoting any specific passages so far is that there are too many to bust out. That said, I will bring to your attention David’s most Lynchian phrase I’ve come across: “There’s a donut, and there’s a hole; and you should keep your eye on the donut.” (This bit of life coaching also appears in interviews he’s provided.)  And in describing David’s voice, (a court adviser in Dune) says it’s “kind of like Peter Lorre from Philadelphia.” 1

Indeed, memorable quotations abound; so much so that my book-mark ran perilously close to running out of room as I jotted down page numbers. David Lynch is a great guy who’s led a highly enjoyable life marred only on occasion by artistic or professional setbacks (the closest he comes to criticizing anyone is describing his distaste for two French corporate “suits” who don’t share their eccentric industrialist boss’ vision). His greatest failing is perhaps is he falls in love with a consistency that precludes long marriages (he’s on his fourth wife).

And my criticisms of the man and his biography that I had hoped to unleash from the back of my mind? I couldn’t muster them. The name-dropping is a little overwhelming at times (less of a problem for readers in “the Biz”), and my only stylistic quibbles have more to do with my archaic language and syntax hang-ups than anything Kristine McKenna gets up to. I personally would never take a compound noun (“Executive-Producer”) and morph it into a verb (“Executive-Produce”) when the sentence structure could be shuffled ever so slightly to keep it a noun (or, as I’d prefer, the verb phrase “produce executively”). But as any sane person can see, this complaint is almost nonsensical.

To sum up: Room to Dream was so good that its section on Mulholland Drive (a movie I have disliked with a passion for over a decade) made me inclined to give it another go. Snap up a copy of this fine tome or borrow it from your local library. It will give you all the Lynch you could hope to digest.

310. TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME (1992)

“…after I saw Twin Peaks—Fire Walk With Me at Cannes, David Lynch has disappeared so far up his own ass that I have no desire to see another David Lynch movie until I hear something different. And you know, I loved him. I loved him.”–Quentin Tarantino

DIRECTED BY: David Lynch

FEATURING, , Moira Kelly, Chris Isaak, Keifer Sutherland,

PLOT: The first thirty minutes cover the FBI investigation of the murder of Teresa Banks (an event referred to in the first season of “Twin Peaks”). The action then moves to the town of Twin Peaks, focusing on high school senior Laura Palmer, the beautiful homecoming queen who has a secret life as a cocaine addict and upscale prostitute. As her father begins acting strange and tensions inside her home grow, Laura goes to a “party” at a cabin in the woods, where tragedy strikes.

Still from Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)

BACKGROUND:

  • ” is a massive franchise, covering two original televised seasons, this feature film, a revival series broadcast twenty-five years after cancellation, and even two novels by co-writer Mark Frost and a book version of “The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer” (credited to David Lynch’s daughter ). Our coverage is similarly scattered: read about the pilot here, the original series here, and the 2017 series here.
  • Lynch had originally planned for Laura Palmer’s murder to never be solved, so the television network’s decision to force the writers to reveal the killer or face cancellation in the second season was an outside force that changed the direction of the overall story.
  • Some of the actors in the TV series’ large cast either refused or were unable to reprise their roles for the feature film, the most significant of whom was (who played Laura’s best friend Donna). Boyle was replaced by Moira Kelly. Series co-creator Mark Frost also disagreed on the direction Lynch was taking the “Twin Peaks” story, and declined to participate in the movie.
  • Over 90 minutes of additional footage was shot, including appearances by characters from the series who didn’t make it into the final product.
  • Lynch originally hoped to make two sequels which would pick up where the television series ended, but Fire Walk With Me‘s disappointing box office ended those plans.

INDELIBLE IMAGE: The angel in the Red Room (although the curtains suddenly turn purple for this scene). It’s one of those tender moments Lynch likes to put in to remind his viewers that, no matter how much evil and perversion he throws onto the screen, he still unironically believes in the ultimate power of goodness, love, and salvation.

THREE WEIRD THINGS: The blue rose; Southern Bowie on security cam; garmonbozia

WHAT MAKES IT WEIRD: “Twin Peaks” is an uneven franchise, ranging over a landscape that covers everything from soap opera to surrealism and quirky comedy to rustic perversion, and so it may be appropriate that Fire Walk With Me is an uneven movie. The feature film continuation of the story is packed with dream sequences, unexpected cameos, mystical characters, and bizarre symbolism (an Arm eating creamed corn?). It was a financial and critical flop whose unremittingly dark and obscuritan tone turned off both casual series fans and mainstream critics, but for better or worse, David Lynch defiantly tears his own way through the universe he dearly loves.


Original trailer for Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

COMMENTS: Early on in Fire Walk with Me, a woman in a red fright Continue reading 310. TWIN PEAKS: FIRE WALK WITH ME (1992)