Mystery Train (Criterion) (Blu-Ray)
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Aloof teenage Japanese tourists, a frazzled Italian widow, and a disgruntled British immigrant all converge in the city of dreams--which, in Mystery Train, from Jim Jarmusch (Stranger Than Paradise, Night on Earth), is Memphis. Made with its director's customary precision and wit, Mystery Train is a triptych of stories that pay playful tribute to the home of Stax Records, Sun Studio, Graceland, Carl Perkins, and, of course, the King himself, who presides over the film like a spirit. Mystery Train is one of Jarmusch's very best movies, a boozy and beautiful pilgrimage to an iconic American ghost town and a paean to the music it gave the world.
Every Jim Jarmusch film involves a journey into a foreign culture. Mystery Train, in which three journeys intersect, marks one of his more diverting efforts. In the finest ("Far from Yokohama"), a Japanese couple makes a pilgrimage to Memphis. Playful Mitzuko (Youki Kudoh) worships Elvis Presley, while sad-faced Jun (Masotoshi Nagase) prefers Carl Perkins. They stay at a haunted hotel overseen by a sharp-dressed clerk (R&B wild man Screamin' Jay Hawkins) and a quirky bellboy (Spike Lee's brother, Cinqué) in a broken-down city that recalls the New York of Jarmusch's debut, Permanent Vacation: filled with rust, weeds--and character (Dead Man cinematographer Robby Müller finds the beauty in every blemish). In the following chapters ("The Ghost" and "Lost in Space"), two other foreigners converge at the same locale: Italian widow Luisa (Nicoletta Braschi, wife of Roberto Begnini), who drops by during a layover, and heartbroken Brit Johnny (the Clash's Joe Strummer), who seeks a hideout. If these sections are less engaging, Hawkins and Lee are consistently amusing ("You look like a damn mosquito-legged chimpanzee" the former quips at one point). Other highlights include Tom Noonan as a sleazy hustler, Steve Buscemi as Johnny's straight-arrow brother-in-law, Tom Waits as an unseen disc jockey, and a savory score from sax player John Lurie.
The supplements start with an audio-only Q&A, in which Jarmusch answers 35 questions from fans, including one about Hawkins, whose signature song figures prominently in Stranger Than Paradise, explaining that he cast him, in part, because he saw no profit from the use of "I Put a Spell on You." This essential release concludes with excerpts from a film about the late performer, a fine featurette on the locations, two photo galleries, and essays by critic Dennis Lim and Elvis biographer Peter Guralnik. --Kathleen C. Fennessy --This text refers to the DVD edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Jarmusch understands that comedy, the comic, is always rooted in irony and extreme contrast. But because it is rooted in irony, in contradiction, it is also never far away from nightmare. From beginning to end this beautiful little film overflows with ironies, harsh contrasts, comedy, and looming nightmare. People who don't grasp Jarmusch's deep feel for the proximity of comedy and nightmare call his style 'quirky'. But for Jarmusch this quirkiness is a dominant characteristic of the human condition, not merely an idiosyncrasy of his own.
To begin with consider the major inclusive contradiction that the entire film is set in, namely, that between the glory and wealth normally associated with Elvis and Graceland and the run down, trashed, Memphis that the film places us in. Jarmusch sets up the viewer by beginning with the very upbeat feel of the moving train and young Elvis singing the title song. From the first frames of the young Japanese couple on the train we know that they are going to Graceland and everything associated with that place immediately comes emotionally to mind. But Jarmusch deliberately drives against this mental/emotional current by leading us into a Memphis that feels more like a ghetto than the dream-home of our hero. From there the ironies just become continually more dense and subtle. By the time we reach the segment involving the gun-toting Britisher nicknamed 'Elvis', we are very close to a hell-world with only comedy to protect us from feeling its full impact.Read more ›
I now have it on DVD and, since purchasing it, have watched it repeatedly. This movie sucks you in and never lets you go from the very opening shot. The cinematography, the dialogue, the direction...all are simply amazing. The humor too...it's a level of humor that is never loud or brash or "in your face." It's a witty sense of humor and it fits perfectly.
Another thing that bears mentioning is the cast. The actors are amazing. Screamin' Jay, Joe Strummer, et al. All are just incredible.
Definitely check this movie out. It has a very "Night on Earth" feel to it, if you've seen that movie. Basically four different story-lines, all inter-woven and inter-related, that sort of all come together in the end. Things happen from one point of you (i.e., the Japanese tourists hearing the gun shot while in the hotel room), then later you see what has happened from the other individual's point of view (i.e. the gun shot "victim"). Maybe that's done nothing but confused you, but take my word (for what it's worth) that it all comes together perfectly.
I'm certain you will enjoy this one. Also, Tom Waits fans take note...you'll get to hear him in this flick. As an aside, I mentioned "Night on Earth"....if you like Tom Waits, get that movie as well.
Most recent customer reviews
I just had t buy the Criterion version of this Jim Jarmusch classic. I already owned it; but the quality of this release is something else!Published on July 19 2013 by ---- John D
I saw this movie in a theatre the first time many years ago & it "sorta- stuck- in-my-mind" all these years; I bought a copy for a friend of mine ,I wanted to have my... Read morePublished on April 1 2013 by James V.
This film makes you feel like your in the American south on a hot summers night. The story focuses on different groups of people going through the same time period with each story... Read morePublished on Sept. 16 2012 by Stephen Bieth
Jim Jarmusch continues to create his own universe on film, and Mystery Train is an essential part of it -- and this Criterion edition does full justice to it. Read morePublished on Dec 6 2011 by Gary Fuhrman
When I saw this movie in the theatre many years ago, there were English subtitles during the foreign language scenes. However, the DVD version does not offer English subtitles. Read morePublished on April 24 2004 by jean temperly
This simple movie is great! It really brings you in and tells a great story of three parties crossing paths in downtrodden Memphis. Read morePublished on Aug. 1 2002 by Jeremiah J. Timmins
'Mystery Train' is a strange little film that definitely has a certain amount of charm. Three very different groups of people (a Japanese couple, an Italian woman, and a British... Read morePublished on Jan. 1 2002 by A. Wolverton