Mystery Train (1989) Poster

(1989)

User Reviews

Review this title
58 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
7/10
Elvis Lives!
mickosaer4 November 2004
'Mystery Train' is probably the most entertaining, interesting and understated of indie-fave Jim Jarmusch's early work (i haven't seen 'Coffee and Cigarettes' yet). The films portrayal of Elvis' birthplace of Memphis, possibly one of the most featureless, gritty and desolate representations of urban America ever committed to film, is a deceptively clever and substantial take on American subcultures.

Without doubt, it is the first of the films three vignettes that makes the film stand out a little more than Jarmusch's other quirky offerings. Two Japanese tourists besotted with the King's legacy and 1950's American retro-culture in general, decide to visit Memphis, where they experience the superficiality his iconic status has been reduced to. The over-excitable and optimistic teenage girl, along with her more austere, cooler-than-cool boyfriend, are equally unimpressed with what the town has to offer. It's quite impressive that 15 years after its release, Jarmusch's depiction of alternative culture manages to capture the pretentious but proudly on-the-edges attitudes probably more apparent in today's retro-obsessed climate than ever before.

Jarmusch's signature eclectic cast is another reason for repeated viewing, the subtleties of, in particular, Steve Buscemi's stuttering and nervous performance, are worth looking out for. As is the linking theme of Elvis' ghost in all three vignettes, a brilliant example of how to take a simple theme, and continually parodize its implications until its every mention leads to some sort of in-joke. The cool, laid-back pace of the film allows the humour to hit you unexpectedly, and the timing is often genius. Very, very, very watchable.
51 out of 53 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Memphis Soul Stew
mike_sean8 May 2000
Jim Jarmusch's follow-up to 1986's "Down By Law" is an engrossing trio of stories revolving around one night in a run-down Memphis hotel. Continuing his tradition of casting musicians as actors, he enlists Joe Strummer as a British Elvis and the late Screamin' Jay Hawkins as the hotel night clerk. R&B great Rufus Thomas appears in the train station, and Tom Waits is the voice of the radio DJ. John Lurie provides the score, along with a fabulous soundtrack of classic Memphis music (from Elvis Presley to the Bar-Kays). The stories are intertwined, with certain events being shown from the perspective of each of the three sets of characters. The town has fallen a bit since its heyday as a musical hotbed, but the spirits of its past can be sensed in the delapidated buildings and landscapes, all lovingly embraced by Jarmusch's lens. All of the night shots were actually filmed at night, and some scenes are subtitled in Japanese and Italian. As is typical with Jarmusch's work, the action unfolds at a leisurely pace, and not without some humor. The film's juxtaposing of cultures is a popular theme with the director, and one he would use again in his next anthology piece, "Night On Earth."
39 out of 43 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
One of the loosest, though tightly structured, low-key yet hilarious, and rocking' films of the 80's
Quinoa198430 November 2004
I've seen all of Jarmusch's films with the exception of Night on Earth. While all of them (even Dead Man and Year of the Horse, movies that boggled my mind with how strange they were) carry a level of off-beat, original, and fresh kind of film-making prowess, I think my favorite (hard to say 'best' with this director) is with this film, Mystery Train. Plot-wise, it's the obvious precursor to Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (and it's understandable that QT saw this- he did, after all, include Elvis as a practical spiritual adviser for Clarence in True Romance, beside the point). The idea behind both films is very similar, but of course executed in entirely different trajectories - one person or place has a level of importance for what will happen to the characters in the film (with 'Pulp' it was Marsellus Wallace; with 'Mystery' it's the Hotel run by Screaming' Jay Hawkins, and the song Blue Moon on radio). On its own terms, Mystery Train comes out entertaining if one doesn't want to think about the timing of the plot, even if that is carefully, almost architecturally constructed.

Although the second and third stories are linked by character associations, the first is a stand-alone segment that looks like if it was just on paper could make for a calm, witty short story. As it is in the film, the Japanese couple "Far from Yokohama" featuring actors Masatoshi Nagase and Yôki Kudô, is an inviting first part of the film, almost entirely in Japanese subtitles, and playing off of the lady's love of Elvis, and the guy's quiet love for Carl Perkins (a name I didn't really know until I asked around). A steady pace is kicked off by Jarmusch, working more on mood than on a conventional story, and it is something that works rather well. Interesting still is how he sets up other little bits with supporting characters as the leads unfurls- this being an occasional couple of lines between Hawkins and down-beat bellboy Cinque Lee (there are also very quick shots of Steve Buscemi as a barber, the only small connection to the other two stories, and Rufus Thomas at the station). Sometimes the couple bicker, but never with a rush of intensity, and when the scene comes to a passionate close, it's really wonderful how it can be touching at being subtle.

The second story, "Ghost", is faster, with more of a high-key for humor. Nicoletta Braschi (Roberto Benigni's wife in most films as in life) is astray in Memphis on a flight, and instead of seeking out Elvis gets it delivered to her in a vision while in a hotel room with a talky Jersey Girl (Elizabeth Bracco). It's a complete kind of surreal scene that acts as the fine top-off to a set of odder circumstances that bring her to the hotel (in particular Tom Noonan in one of the funniest small roles I've seen in any Jarmusch film). Once again, the little things keep this thing floating with a stack of magazines, and of course, all that music on the radio.

The third story, "Lost in Space", is when Jarmusch turns up the energy, which means not as far as you might expect. What he does get is a kind of three-character triangle that some-what reminded me of a sequence in The Last Detail: three characters that are totally smashed, with nothing else except to crash in the hotel. But with this story, two performances shine through unexpectedly: Joe Strummer as a fuming, gun-toting Brit and Steve Buscemi in his early days as his "brother in-law". The climax to this scene- in essence the climax to the whole film- is one that is on par, at least comparable, to the climax of Pulp Fiction, as a wild, dead-serious and dead-funny accumulation of events tying things together.

Two facets that make Jarmusch's vision work are, for one thing, that he has Robby Mueller, a bit of a God in the world of modern European cinematographers. His scenes are lit sometimes with all the realism and fantasy of a European fantasy film, but also with a careful eye in composition and getting unusual angles on things a simple as photographing two people in bed or a person walking alone with Memphis in the backdrop. The other facet includes the city itself, with its quality of attracting and leading in people who are unique to the city, and (sometimes) particular to the music. On top of Jarmusch regular John Lurie on the guitar and harmonica, he brings in songs that remind me how much I can get into this kind of music with the right setting. They- Elvis, Orbison, and Sam Phillips among others- contribute just as much as the actors do. Mystery Train may be one of the quintessential 80's indie films (which can be said of Stinger than Paradise and Down by Law as well), that welcomes anyone who might be interested to watch, and if you don't like it, it's not at the worst offensive to taste. It's a keen film on people, music, and devotion.
35 out of 44 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
An outsider's look at America
rdoyle2916 September 2000
"Mystery Train" is a witty look at different aspects of one of the crazes of our time, the worship of Elvis Presley. The cast includes cult performers like Tom Noonan (the serial killer in Michael Mann's "Manhunter"), Steve Buscemi, and singer Tom Waits (heard on the radio), and it is directed by one of America's leading independent directors. "Mystery Train" is possibly Jim Jarmusch's most immaculate film, and though the movie gets steadily darker in its comic tone, it is his least bleak work to date. The patterning is precise, the film growing richer as the three strands are finally woven together, or perhaps unwoven, as the characters go their separate ways. Robbie Muller, the great Dutch cameraman who shot Alex Cox's "Repo Man" and Wim Wenders' "Paris, Texas", once more brings an outsider's perspective to the American landscape, giving the night scenes and hotel interiors a Hopperesque look and endowing a dilapidated section of Memphis with an elegaic sadness.
20 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Quirky movie
SuzieBorgt4 September 2003
Mystery Train is the type of movie that is over before you know it. Serious and funny at the same time. I like the layout of the picture, how all the people's live inter-mingled without touching each other and time started over when the next group of people started their adventure.

Made in 1989, this movie still lives today, just like Elvis! Actually, this movie will be around for a very long time. With quirky being the "norm" for TV and movies now, it fits into the current movie atmosphere even more. I think this one fell in between the time of Twin Peaks & Northern Exposure on network TV and Six Feet Under and Dead Like Me on cable movie channels.

This one ranks way up there with Momento as one of my favorite movies.
29 out of 39 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Haunting and humorous triptych from amazing Jarmusch
pooch-85 January 1999
Mystery Train is a moody and atmospheric gem surrounding a flea-bag Memphis hotel. Great performances are dished out (Screamin' Jay Hawkins and Cinque Lee are hilarious in an argument over exotic fruits from foreign lands) all around, but I favor the dynamic duo of Youki Kudoh and Masatoshi Nagase. Their characters are "far from Yokohama," but love will find its way to Tennessee. The lighting of a cigarette, an impressive t-shirt collection, an argument over the merits of Carl Perkins versus The King, the smearing of some crimson lipstick, and an exhilarating invitation to bed -- the minutiae of a special bond beyond mere chemistry. The combination of Nagase's dour, glowering sourpuss and Kudoh's charming, enthusiastic pixie makes for a volcanic cocktail.
27 out of 38 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Very original, and realistic character drama
pfranklin31 July 2003
I liked this movie, yet it's hard to say exactly why. It was very realistic in it's overall story line yet very original in the way it presented it. The actors almost appeared real in that one was just observing them in real life. I think that was because of the story line, script and direction.

Also this entire movie is like a well thought out three-act play that takes place all at the same time. It is cleverly connected and dramatically effective at getting the viewer's interest in these character interactions over this one night period of time in Memphis. Attention to detail was as good as it could get.

If you are big fan of very high quality and original indie films you should not miss this one. It has the makings of a true classic.
17 out of 24 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Jarmusch Delivers An Original
jhclues7 December 2000
Memphis is the setting, and the specter of Elvis pervades a trio of stories in `Mystery Train,' written and directed by Jim Jarmusch. The three episodes that make up the movie are told separately and in their entirety, though they happen simultaneously in time, and share nothing more than a common local which serves as the hub around which the stories revolve. And with them, Jarmusch does what he does best: he invites the audience in to share some time with the individuals who populate his landscape, as he places them under the microscope to study the minutiae of their lives. In his hands, the details of everyday existence become fresh and new, like the first time you see a new city or make the acquaintance of a total stranger who forever after becomes a part of your life. It's an intimate style of filmmaking, almost voyeuristic, wherein the camera becomes the eyes of the audience and makes the viewer more than a mere onlooker; it places you in the scene, which allows you to experience what the characters are experiencing, to live what they are living. When someone is walking down the street, you're on that street with them, feeling the pavement beneath your feet; in the train depot, you drink in the atmosphere, feeling the texture of the walls, of the aged wood of the benches, smelling the age-old scents of time that hang on the air. You're there with the young couple from Japan, in Memphis to see Sun Studios and Graceland; and with the young widow from Rome, passing through with the casket of her late husband awaiting transport at the airport; and with three young men who have too much to drink and within a few hours find out how quickly life can become so complicated. Jarmusch works with such precision that it makes everything that happens seem spontaneous; it's an innate sense of knowing what works, and how to make that necessary connection with the audience by making all that transpires real. He's a skilled craftsman who knows what he wants and exactly how to deliver it. He creates the proper atmosphere, then introduces you to the characters through which his story will be told. And once the stage is set, Jarmusch knows that `who' these people are and what makes them unique is as important as the story itself, for in a sense, the characters `are' the story. It's an examination of human nature; of traits and of how people function under certain circumstances. And through each character the viewer gets a different perspective on what is happening, along with some insight into how we all relate to one another in a given situation, from the mundane to the bizarre. To tell his tale, Jarmusch has assembled a talented, eclectic cast of actors, including Masatoshi Nagase (Jun) and the charismatic Youki Kudoh (Mitsuko), the couple from Japan with opposing perspectives of Memphis; Nicoletta Braschi (Luisa), the widow awaiting a flight back to Rome; Elizabeth Bracco (Dee Dee), a young woman whose life is in transition; Tom Noonan (Man in Diner), a man with a menacing presence and a strange tale to tell; Steve Buscemi (Charlie), a regular guy led astray by trusting indifference, along with Rick Aviles (Will Robinson) and Lowell Roberts (Lester); Stephen Jones, a dead-ringer for Elvis who is extremely effective here as his ghost; and the two whose characters are pivotal to the story, Screamin' Jay Hawkins (Hotel Night Clerk), and Cinque Lee (The Bellboy). And--heard, but not seen-- Tom Waits (Voice of the Radio DJ). Thoroughly engrossing and highly entertaining, `Mystery Train' is vintage Jarmusch; a director whose minimalist techniques and style make for a satisfying and rewarding movie-going experience. He will not dazzle you with ILM F/X or feed you endless lines of witty dialogue; instead, he gives you more: A film that is artistically and cleverly rendered, with an engaging story and characters that are `real.' An independent filmmaker who stays true to his personal `vision,' Jarmusch gives you that which is rarely found in Hollywood. A film that is truly original. I rate this one 8/10.
10 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Weaving a narrative
bapu_the_brave30 April 2005
Jarmusch does a masterful job weaving three stories, portraying simultaneity of action, building a mood and creating believable characters. All the things that Tarrentino would later get credit for in Pulp Fiction are done here and better.

The stories move at less than break-neck pace, so if you need action all the time this is not your film. But a belief in the reality of the world, and a compassion for the characters is wonderfully realized.

Because each of the three stories has it's on rhythm, conflict and characters, some will be drawn more to one part of the trilogy than another. The wonder of this, the mastery shown, is when contrasted with other, lesser writers who attempt this but have three stories all with the same tone - for example in Sin City where everyone acts the same.

I loved Mystery Train (as I had Down by Law). Bapu says check it out.
7 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Jarmusch's slice of Americana
lastliberal16 August 2008
Jim Jarmusch (Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Broken Flowers) delivers films that are true indy's. They don't fit any norm, and this one is over before you even realize it.

It is three stories that are tied together by a seedy motel. The characters never intersect. There must be a point there somewhere, but I sure missed it.

I did like the picture of America that we usually don't see unless we go looking for it. Most cities are lit with fast food signs and an endless string of car lots. Getting down on the back streets with stores shuttered, bars where everyone knows your name, and seedy motels that should have closed long ago, is an adventure that most do experience.

The blues music and the Elvis theme that runs through the movie is an exciting backdrop. Steve Buscemi is fun to watch as always, and I really liked the Japanese teen, Youki Kudoh, and, of course Robby Müller's (Paris, Texas) cinematography is always good.

Jarmusch fans will love it.
12 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Quirky, often engaging character study
mattymatt4ever8 November 2001
I just got done watching "Dead Man" in my Development of Film class at the school, so I was curious about Jarmusch's early work. I saw "Night on Earth" and "Ghost Dog," and I was very impressed with those two films. I wasn't too impressed with "Dead Man," but I still felt curious to check out this movie.

"Mystery Train" moves along at a pace identical to that of "Night on Earth." It has those usual Jarmusch trademarks: characters from a foreign country, culture clashes, episodic rhythm, etc. Jarmusch is a very talented screenwriter, and he's good at engaging his audience with dialogue that is crisp (and sometimes quite funny) but at the same time brutally realistic. You can never watch a Jarmusch film and say to yourself, "Man, people don't talk like that in real life!"

Though highly identical to "Night on Earth," I found that film much more engaging in comparison, and I could've help but ponder that while watching this movie. Don't get me wrong, I liked "Mystery Train," but NOE had a certain quality that made it a lot more entertaining, despite the fact that it was two hours long (give or take). I guess I just found the interactions between the characters in that movie more interesting. In this film, I found them interesting as well, but the scenes would drag out at points. Both films move at a leisurely pace, but the minutes seem to go by slower when watching this one.

Nevertheless, it was well-made, with some nice uses of 3-figure composition. Jarmusch makes good use of the camera, preventing us from feeling like we're watching a photographed play--even though many scenes fixate on one location. The soundtrack is cool, and it's interesting how Jarmusch used The King to tie the stories together. The performances are good, and one of my main curiousities--before viewing the film--was seeing Steve Buscemi in one of his early roles. I love Steve, he's one of our coolest actors.

Overall, I recommend the film. It definitely has its moments. I just thought it dragged at points, and if you had the choice between this movie and "Night on Earth," I recommend you choose the latter.

My score: 7 (out of 10)
11 out of 18 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Devils in disguise
richard_sleboe1 July 2007
The great medieval philosopher Duns Scotus said that whatever leaves a mark remains present in its trace, and by studying the trace, we may study the thing itself. There are traces of Rock'n'Roll everywhere in Memphis, Tennessee, and Jim Jarmusch digs them up for us to see and hear. The plot of "Mystery Train" itself has some semblance of a song. Money is spent, hearts are broken, a gunshot rings, the jukebox plays. When everybody else is playing it cool, Steve Buscemi is the soul of the story as Charlie the Barber, a coward with a heart of gold. For the first time in a long string of enigmatic guest appearances, Tom Waits provides voice-over as a late night radio DJ. "Mystery Train" is also a work of critical feminism. From the very beginning, the girls make all the calls: cheerful Mitsuko, no-nonsense Luisa, chatterbox Dee-Dee. As the King himself once observed, they are devils in disguise.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
This is America
zzapper-215 August 1999
What a terrific film for us foreigners. The USA condensed into one bottle. Elvis, Screaming Jay Hawkins, a seedy hotel, an endless steamy night, the desolation, the Guide at the Sun Studios, the Japanese tourists: I don't want to say any more
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
A Perfect movie, no loose ends.
cpvivier16 December 2002
I always find myself citing "Mystery Train" as an example of how movies can tie up any loose end the director/writer really wants to. Mystery Train has no loose ends, nothing extraneous, everything fits perfectly. It's a great movie for people that appreciate details, and notice everything in a movie. I think "Night on Earth" is more entertaining, but this one is more flawless.
5 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
mystery train and all of jarmusch's films
paranoidandroid-110 December 2001
jim jarmusch affects his viewers in curious ways. in mystery train, he presents a series of situations, sometimes filled with off-beat humor, sometimes filled with tenderness, and, in one instance, characterized by one violent moment. on the whole, every moment is affecting, every moment is moving. jarmusch sees the world with such sensitivity and humor, such affection; there is no place for cynics or satirists. jarmusch has never emphasized technical virtuosity. his virtuosity, rather, is his ability to place characters who he obviously cares for in situations which endear them to the audience, his ability to show, with simple gestures and moments (like mitzuko's unorthodox cigarette lighting technique) our beauty, humanity's beauty, is our idiosyncracy and differences. steven soderbergh states that technical perfection is not as important as cinematic energy. jarmusch films have energy; it quiet, polite, lovely energy, but energy nonetheless.
5 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
a compelling trio
290554 January 1999
Director, Jim Jarmush showed great form with this movie, but has done little of note since. This simple trio of stories set in a seedy Memphis hotel are linked by a single event and each one is introduced by the hotel concierge and bellboy. The acute realism of this film is its most notable achievement. The Japanese rock 'n' roll fans touring sites of rock history, the wealthy Italian lady forced to spend the night with a lush, and the three hapless crooks are so believable it is almost necessary for the interjections of the larger-than-life concierge played by Screaming Jay Hawkins. The film is compelling without ever becoming over complicated or wildly action packed.
12 out of 23 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
3/10
Dull
bhy19766 August 2006
This is not the first Jim Jarmush film I've seen, but it is most definitely the last. In typical Jarmush style, this film is composed of mindless dialog amongst flat characters that just goes on ad nauseum. When the characters' words actually lead to actions, those actions are barely able to keep an already struggling plot alive. What saves this film from utter ruin are some amusing one-liners that satirize life in the Southern United States and the naivité of overseas tourists when they end up somewhere like Memphis. Hence the 3-star rating instead of a 1-star rating. Nevertheless, I think the film as a whole fails to entertain or to make any interesting observations on life in general.
11 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
5/10
Not really a fan
Sandcooler13 August 2012
This movie is often presented as a Memphis-based anthology where all the stories come together in the end, but that's only half true. The character stay in their own segments without meeting each other (with one fairly redundant exception), the only thing that connects them all is that they stay in the same hotel and all end up hearing the same gunshot. And I beg you: don't keep watching to see where the gunshot comes from, it's not worth it. Are there other reasons to keep watching? There are. The last segment is arguably the best, mainly because at least it does have some sort of plot and features the likes of Joe Strummer (yeah, the one from The Clash) and Steve Buscemi. There are some funny lines in there, and Vondie Curtis-Hall (who would go on to direct "Gridlock'd") is pretty awesome in it as well. Most people actually disagree with this though and like the first segment far more, but I couldn't get into it all. It features two Japanese tourists...being Japanese tourists for 40 minutes. Writer/Director Jim Jarmusch does give them some interesting traits and it's a cute couple, but 40 minutes of this? It's not like this is all setting up something, they have nothing to do with the rest of the segments. I'll take Joe Strummer robbing a liquor store any time. The second segment is probably the least interesting to discuss, because most people aren't particularly fond of it and neither am I. It's not filler, but it's not very entertaining either. "Mystery Train" didn't thrill me nearly as much as I thought it would, but I guess the last segment does make it worthwhile.
4 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
Makes the mundane interesting
helpless_dancer3 May 2002
Quirky trio of tales loosely interlaced around a poor section of Memphis. This was a very offbeat film which really didn't go anywhere but was still interesting and amusing. I appreciated all the super cool action with the zippo, particularly by the oriental dude. Very different, check it out.
5 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Memphis today
lee_eisenberg11 August 2005
In "Mystery Train", Jim Jarmusch does with Memphis what he would later do with taxis in "Night on Earth". In this case, various tourists (including from Japan and Italy) have made pilgrimages to Memphis to see where Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, etc, recorded. Unfortunately, Sun Studios is in the middle of a dilapidated ghetto. A really good scene shows a woman walking through this ghetto, while the affluent downtown appears in the background.

It is true that Jim Jarmusch is an acquired taste, but "Mystery Train" will probably appeal to more people if only because of the soundtrack. It has one of the neatest soundtracks that I've ever heard. Masatoshi Nagase, Youki Kudoh, Steve Buscemi, Rick Aviles, Joe Strummer, Nicoletta Braschi, Elizabeth Bracco and Screamin' Jay Hawkins all put on some great performances, with Tom Waits as the radio announcer. This is one great movie!
4 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Worth watching for the cast
ottaky20 September 2004
Steve Buscemi, Joe Strummer and Maiku Hama (Masatoshi Nagase) - together at last!

Unfortunately, in this instance, the cast are let down by a less than inspiring script. Buscemi turns in what has become his signature performance, Strummer acts (or maybe is) drunk and Nagase doesn't really have very much to do or say as Jun.

Mystery Train is not a bad movie but, by the same token, it's not a great movie. In fact, it's really 3 short movies covering roughly the same time frame that all incorporate one hotel. I can't help thinking that the film might have been more interesting if the three threads had been inter-cut, but not intersecting, to give the illusion of a more complex plot - but, hey, I'm not a director.

Mystery Train is watchable, but it fails to live up to the reputation of Jarmusch's Down By Law which is far superior in nearly every respect. Worth catching if it's on TV, but not if Down By Law's on the other side.
3 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
Jim Jarmusch is the most boarderless director
Yuko-410 January 1999
At least boarderless of race and nationality. The foreign dialogue, as far as Japanese is concerned, is completely natural and practical (like letting Jun use the word "Shibuize" for "cool". Foreign dialogues in most movies of most languages do not work this way). I wonder how Jarmusch makes sure of these as he must not speak Japanese this well. But more than the dialogue, just as his other works, there is no necessity for the characters being Japanese or Italian or even American. They are all just travellers of the universe. There is no stereo type and still Jarmusch doesn't leave a single space for us to ask "shouldn't there be some explanation?". Mystery Train is a real and humble world which is kind of a different world but still a world right next to you. It's a movie wearing jeans and no make-up but maybe leather, and even if you don't like cult you can still enjoy and laugh.
3 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Weaker than Jarmusch's previous efforts, but entertaining and a fine transition to colour
crculver17 September 2014
Released in 1989, MYSTERY TRAIN was Jim Jarmusch's third film. The film consists of three independent but interlocking vignettes which take place in a Memphis hotel run by Screamin' Jay Hawkins with the help of bellboy Cinque Lee.

In the first scene, young Japanese tourists Mitsuko (Youki Kudoh) and Jun (Matsatoshi Nagase) pass through Memphis to see the monuments of 1950s rock 'n' roll. Their relationship isn't going so well, evoking tragedy. The second vignette introduces us to a recently widowed Italian woman (Nicoletta Braschi) who has to spend a night in town before she can depart with her husband's coffin. Finally, the third vignette follows the post-layoff bender of a couple of newly unemployed locals (Joe Strummer, Rick Aviles) and a local barber (Steve Buscemi). In spite of armed robbery and murder, this is actually the most straight-up funny portion of the film. It's a typical Buscemi part of a nice guy caught up in scandalous events beyond his control, and Joe Strummer has a gift for comedic acting. Between these three plot lines, we are treated to great deadpan interludes between Hawkins and the bellboy.

Some filmmakers evoke the natural beauty of their country. Who doesn't want to visit the windswept coasts of Bergman's Sweden or the feverish urban nights of the Italian auteurs? Jarmusch's first three films, on the other hand, portray the United States as a blight of weeds, empty streets, graffiti and failing infrastructure. American by birth, I left the US years ago and this film only makes me grateful I did. But even if the landscape is hideous, with its fairly harmonious relationship of characters of different races, MYSTERY TRAIN does depict a beautiful society that I hope is out there somewhere.

I wouldn't rank MYSTERY TRAIN as highly as certain other Jarmusch films. The three stories here are clearly independently conceived, and though they are reconciled into a single plot, the film as a whole doesn't seem so epic. The middle vignette is rather lightweight, although Tom Noonan's bit as a scam artist is creepy and memorable. Still, the film is entertaining and fairly well put-together, and the visuals provide a new strong aspect that one doesn't find in the two earlier efforts. MYSTERY TRAIN was Jarmusch's first film in colour and he chose a lovely cool palette that jars with Screamin' Jay Hawkins' electric red suit.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Wonderful movie; DVD buyers beware.
RMant316 August 2000
Pretty much everyone has made the same comments that I would make about this absolutely wonderful movie. However, I do have one minor point to make about the Region 1 DVD release. It only offers subtitles in Spanish and French. This means that unless you are fluent in these two languages or Japanese or Italian, you are not going to understand 33% of the dialogue in this movie.

Which, all things considered, isn't that big of a deal since Mystery Train can be enjoyed even with the sound off...
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews


Recently Viewed