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Film Review

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat


Mystery Train
Directed by Jim Jarmusch
MGM/UA 01/90 DVD/VHS Feature Film

Here is the third in a trilogy of films written and directed by Jim Jarmusch (Stranger Than Paradise, Down by Law) about time, character, and storytelling. This film shot on location in Memphis by Robby Muller looks at a handful of people who spend the night in different rooms at the tacky Arcade Hotel in the town celebrated as Elvis Presley's home.

Youki Kudoh and Masatoshi Nagase play two Japanese youth who have come from Yokohama to visit Sun Studios and Graceland. This couple are completely different — she's outgoing, he's quiet; she adores Elvis, he prefers Carl Perkins; she collects t-shirts, he travels light. While they are on screen, it's a total delight.

Meanwhile, Luisa (Nicoletta Braschi), an Italian, is at the airport making arrangements to ship her husband's body back to Rome. In town, she is conned out of some money for a comb of Elvis Presley's and Dee Dee (Elizabeth Bracco), who's short of cash, convinces her to share a room at the Arcade Hotel. During the night, the American girl talks about walking out on her English boyfriend and Luisa sees a ghost.

The same evening, in a different room, Johnny (Joe Strummer), Dee Dee's boyfriend, is hiding out with his friend (Vondie Curtis-Hall) and his brother-in-law (Steve Buscemi). In a depression, Johnny robbed a liquor store and shot the clerk. All three men are drunk.

Mystery Train offers little more than an entertaining slice of modern life in slow motion. John Lurie's musical selections fit the film like a hand in a glove.


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Reviews and database copyright 1970 2012
by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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