MYSTERY TRAIN, 1989
Cast: Masatoshi Nagase, Jodie Markell, Nicoletta Braschi, Sy Richardson, Steve Buscemi, Tom Waits
A Japanese couple obsessed with 1950s America goes to Memphis because the male half of the couple emulates Carl Perkins. Chance encounters link three different stories in the city, with the common thread being the seedy hotel where they are all staying.
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Jim Jarmusch likes to split his films into pieces. I mean he has his short stories and at the end he combines them and makes connection between them. This type of films usually named as ‘anthology film’, Jarmusch is doing a different thing, in a way. If you count out Mystery Train, the other Jarmusch films which are formed by episodes (Coffee and Cigarettes, Night on Earth) you can easily see that they are not really anthology films. Their episodes don’t have a relation between them. They may all have the same theme but characters in each episodes don’t have anything to do with each other. Mystery Train has three different stories and they take place in the same hotel. It is a classic Jarmusch movie, full of original characters and interesting events. In my opinion this is the best Jarmusch film you can watch with Stranger than Paradise.
The funniest story is the first one, ‘Far From Oklahoma’. Two teenager Japanese tourists (actually a couple) come to Memphis to during a trip through America. Girl is obsessed with Elvis Presley but the boy’s hero is definitely Carl Perkins. For me this is the best episode of the film, mainly because of the male Japanese character, Jun. Everything he does is stylish especially his tricks with his lighter. These two Japanese characters are completely different from each other. The girl, Mitsuko, is always smiling which is just the opposite of Jun. Jim Jarmusch is a professional on writing characters and dialogues and this episode of Mystery Train is a great example to that. When you see this episode apart from the Japanese couple’s disparities, it is obvious that they love each other. At the end of the day they come to a hotel and in the hotel’s reception Screamin’ Jay Hawkins is waiting for the Japanese couple and for the audience as a nice surprise. His performance with his belly boy is amazing just like his red coat. Jun and Mitsuko stay in the hotel and in the morning while they are packing their stuff they hear a gunshot from a room in the hotel.
Second episode’s name is ‘A Ghost’. The main character is an Italian widow, Luisa. She is escorting his husband’s coffin to Italy but she has to stay in Memphis for one night. She spends the day in the streets and buys a lot of magazines. At night a man tells a story (a very good one) tries to abuse her and finally she ran away to the same hotel that Japanese couple stayed. She shares her room with another women, who is very talkative. They are both afraid and happy that they are not alone. When they go to sleep Luisa sees the ghost of Elvis. In the morning both of them feel strange and want to leave the hotel right away. Then they hear a gunshot and leave. This one may be the weakest link of the film but is stills has its own great moments. The best moment of this episode of the Elvis story that a foreign guy tells to Luisa in a bar. Just like the story with the Japanese couple, this is story of a foreigner who comes to America by accident. This time there are no communication problems because Luisa knows English.
Here comes my second favorite, ‘Lost in Space’. It’s not just because of the excitement that I feel when I see Joe Strummer and Steve Buscemi in the same frame. The story is very good and all the characters are unique, especially Steve Buscemi’s Charlie. Joe Strummer, as Johnny or Elvis, is a man who is in a great depression because he lost his job and his wife left him.
The jeep starts working again, and he heads off to the diner where he finds that no one in the diner has seen or heard from his wife. When he finds the trucker who gave Amy the ride, the trucker swears he has never seen her. Now Jeff must attempt to find his wife, who has been kidnapped and is being held for ransom.
There are a few twists that pop up throughout the film which actually adds depth to certain characters. JT plays the villain but there’s more to his story than simply a one note bad guy. He has a family, and a son who admires him greatly.
Kurt Russell has always been solid actor and many of his roles, and here he’s no different. It’s nice to see him again since nowadays he’s rarely seen in films. But here he shows us why he was such valuable commodity in the business. Maybe he’ll show up some more in future movies.