Mystery Train

Director: Jim Jarmusch

U.S.A.-Japan| 1989. Colour. Dolby stereo. 110 min.

The voice of Tom Waits and the spirit of Elvis Presley drive Jarmusch’s heartfelt love letter to (amongst other things) the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, the art of telling tall tales and the oblique beauty of random encounters. A trilogy of off-kilter tales that slowly reveal a larger picture of a single night in and around a down-at-heel Memphis Hotel—run by (who else?) Screamin’ Jay Hawkins—Mystery Train offers many pleasures, not least the director’s transition into colour ?lmmaking, as vividly realised by soon-to-be regular cinematographer Robby Muller. As ever with Jarmusch, it’s not about the destination, more the journey his characters take, be they a duo of Japanese Elvis worshippers on a pilgrimage (by this point, the ?lmmaker had more luck raising ?nance in the East), a grieving Italian widow or a washed-up British desperado—the latter played by the late, great Clash frontman Joe Strummer in his ?nest screen work. More strangeness. More beauty. A delight.

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