Mystery Train

Director Jim Jarmusch saluted Screamin’ Jay Hawkins in Stranger Than Paradise (1984); here, the artist is given a key part as the hotel night clerk who holds the three stories of the film together. He makes a very amusing team with Cinque Lee as the bellboy. The movie first depicts two Japanese tourists who arrive in Memphis; then, an Italian widow who sees the ghost of Elvis Presley in a hotel room; and lastly, three losers who rob a liquor store. Colorful, funny and well-structured, the film is just as charming as the mythology surrounding Elvis and Memphis; it was shot there and the carefully chosen oldies on the soundtrack add to the haunting atmosphere.

1989-U.S. 113 min. Color. Produced by Jim Stark. Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch. Cast: Masatoshi Nagase (Jun), Youki Kudoh (Mitsuko), Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (Night Clerk), Cinque Lee, Nicoletta Braschi, Elizabeth Bracco… Joe Strummer, Steve Buscemi. Voice of Tom Waits.

Last word:  “As a writer I wanted to amuse myself with something that wasn’t linear for a change. Why, I’m not sure. It also happened because I had a number of actors I wanted to make characters for and I was having trouble devising a way to fit them into one film. So it occurred to me to make a film that was devised like a sketch film but was in fact one whole film. But you can’t take one story out because it just wouldn’t make sense, so somehow this form just presented itself to me by accident. I liked the idea and just kept following the train of thought and invented little connections between them.” (Jarmusch, interview by Ian Johnston)

 

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