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Mystery Train (Criterion) (Blu-Ray)

4.3 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Actors: Masatoshi Nagase, Yûki Kudô, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Cinqué Lee, Rufus Thomas
  • Directors: Jim Jarmusch
  • Writers: Jim Jarmusch
  • Producers: Demetra J. MacBride, Hideaki Suda, Jim Stark, Kunijiro Hirata, Rudd Simmons
  • Format: Dolby, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Subtitles: English
  • Region: Region A/1
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • MPAA Rating: R
  • Studio: Criterion
  • Release Date: June 15 2010
  • Run Time: 110 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews
  • ASIN: B003D3Y656
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #26,436 in DVD (See Top 100 in DVD)
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Product Description

Product Description

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.

Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
There's such an unapologetic authenticity to this quirky little one night stand in deepest darkest Memphis. From the young Japanese couple on their rite of passage, to the lost and bewildered young Italian widow, to drunken and depressed British Johnny and his unlucky entourage. It's like one knows who these people are and their background before they even speak. And as the movie unfolds, one starts getting a sense how this one night at a downtrodden hotel comes together in a literal 'big bang' theory. Screamin' Jay Hawkins and Cinque Lee are genuinely hilarious as the hotel concierge and bell boy. And though as violent, suspenseful, racist, and simply confused as the characters and events can be, there is such a good feeling at the end for all and a pleasure that it wasn't any worse than it was. The look of the movie is incredible. Seizing this small corner of Memphis in it's shoddy state, Jarmusch sets, tracks, lights, and colors each scene with Norman Rockwell mastery. And kudos to Criterion for the added bonuses. Not only does it give the viewer respect for all the work that went into making the movie look so simple. But also contains some great history and interviews explaining the 'Southern Soul' that bubbled behind the likes of Sun and Stax talents. It's of a fond love of music, history, and folklore that this movie is made with. And that anyone from any walk of life can still have a memorable experience in the faded glories of Memphis.
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Format: VHS Tape
I think this film is quite good, but I disagree with the basic slant on it taken by the editor and the other customer reviews. I think this film is at least as much dark satire as it is celebration of the Elvis 'legacy'.
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.
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Format: DVD
Jim Jarmusch hit the nail on the head with this film. I happened to come across it years ago while browsing in a video store. I was so captivated by it, I went out and rented another VCR so I could dub the copy of it on to a VHS tape. Perhaps that will shed some light on how good this movie is. Perhaps.
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'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'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.
Enjoy kiddies.
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Format: DVD
I saw MYSTERY TRAIN in London, back in January 1990. I'd heard about the film before I left the US, but knew it would never play in my home town. I was glad to have the opportunity to see this, and many other wonderful films, during my stay in London. As a "foreigner" in a strange, yet strangely familiar, country I immediately connected with the three tales in MT. Of course, I didn't have the language obstacles the characters have in the film, but I could understand their awe and curiosity about every little thing. Besides that, I felt lucky to be exposed to Jarmusch's style and his filmic vision. I would also see DOWN BY LAW while I was there, and later, while back in the States, Jarmusch's first classic STRANGER THAN PARADISE. MT remains my favorite of the "stranger in a strange land" trilogy, due in no small part to my first exposure to Steve Buscemi. MT is an original, as is Jarmusch. For more of him see his other DVDs as well as his turn as a fisherman in FISHING WITH JOHN.
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