Sunday, February 21, 2010

Jim Jarmusch. Mystery Train (1989)

Mystery Train is a 1989 independent anthology film written and directed by Jim Jarmusch and set in Memphis, Tennessee. The film comprises a triptych of stories involving foreign protagonists unfolding over the course of the same night. "Far From Yokohama" features a Japanese couple (played by Youki Kudoh and Masatoshi Nagase) on a blues pilgrimage, "A Ghost" focuses on an Italian widow (Nicoletta Braschi) stranded in the city overnight, and "Lost In Space" follows the misadventure of a newly single and unemployed Englishman (Joe Strummer) and his companions (Rick Aviles and Steve Buscemi). They are linked by a run-down flophouse overseen by a night clerk (played by Screamin' Jay Hawkins) and his dishevelled bellboy (Cinqué Lee), a scene featuring Elvis Presley's "Blue Moon",[3] and a gunshot.

The starting point for the script was the ensemble cast of friends and previous collaborators Jarmusch had conceived characters for, while the tripartite formal structure of the film was inspired by his study of literary forms. Cinematographer Robby Müller and musician John Lurie were among the many contributors who had been involved in earlier Jarmusch projects and returned to work on the film. Mystery Train's US$2.8 million budget (financed by Japanese conglomerate JVC) was considerable compared to what the director had enjoyed before, and allowed him the freedom to rehearse many unscripted background scenes. It was the first of Jarmusch's feature films to depart from his trademark black-and-white photography, though the use of color was tightly controlled to conform with the director's intuitive sense of the film's aesthetic.

Mystery Train was released theatrically by Orion Classics under a restricted rating in the United States, where it grossed over $1.5 million. It enjoyed critical acclaim on the film festival circuit, and like the director's earlier films premiered at the New York Film Festival and was shown in competition at Cannes, where Jarmusch was awarded the Best Artistic Achievement Award. The film was also shown in the Edinburgh, London, Midnight Sun, Telluride, and Toronto film festivals, and was nominated in six categories at the Independent Spirit Awards. Critical reaction was overwhelmingly positive, with reviewers praising the structure, humor, and characters of the film, though there were discontented rumblings that the director had not been sufficiently adventurous.

The film consists of three stories that take place on the same night in downtown Memphis. The three stories are linked together by the Arcade Hotel, a run-down flophouse presided over by the night clerk (Screamin' Jay Hawkins) and bellboy (Cinqué Lee), where the principal characters in each story spend a part of the night. Every room in the hotel is adorned with a portrait of Elvis.

The first story, "Far From Yokohama", features Mitsuko (Youki Kudoh) and Jun (Masatoshi Nagase), a teenage couple from Yokohama making a pilgrimage to Memphis during a trip across America. Mitsuko is obsessed with Elvis to the point where she believes that there is a mystical connection between Elvis, Madonna and the Statue of Liberty. The film follows the couple as they travel from the train station, through downtown Memphis and an exhausting tour of Sun Records, to the Arcade hotel.

The second story, "A Ghost", is about an Italian widow, Luisa (Nicoletta Braschi), who is stranded in Memphis while escorting her husband's coffin back to Italy. Luisa, who has been conned twice and stuck with armfuls of magazines, is forced to share a room at the hotel with Dee Dee (Elizabeth Bracco), a young woman who has just left her husband and who plans to leave the city in the morning. Luisa is kept awake by Dee Dee's constant talking, and when the young woman finally does go to sleep, visited by an apparition of Memphis' most famous icon – Elvis Presley.

In the final story, "Lost In Space", Dee Dee's husband Johnny (Joe Strummer) is introduced. Having gotten drunk after losing his job, Johnny – known, much to his chagrin, as Elvis – drives around the city along with his friend Will Robinson (Rick Aviles) and brother-in-law Charlie (Steve Buscemi). They stop at a liquor store, which Johnny attempts to rob using the gun and severely wounds the owner in the process. Fearing the consequences of the incident, Johnny, Will and Charlie retire to the hotel to hide out for the night; there, Johnny gets further drunk. Charlie realizes that Will shares the same name as the character Will Robinson from the television show Lost in Space, which Johnny has never heard of. Charlie and Will proceed to tell him about the show, and Will comments that that is how he feels then with Charlie and Johnny; lost in space. The next morning Charlie discovers that Johnny isn't really his brother-in-law, which angers him because of what they've been through. Johnny attempts to shoot himself, and while struggling to prevent him, Charlie is shot in the leg. Leaving the hotel, the three escape a police car that isn't even looking for them. The closing credits show the train, the airport and the final views of the characters from the first two stories.(WIKI)

Directed by Jim Jarmusch
Produced by Rudd Simmons
Jim Stark
Written by Jim Jarmusch
Starring Youki Kudoh
Masatoshi Nagase
Screamin' Jay Hawkins
Cinqué Lee
Nicoletta Braschi
Elizabeth Bracco
Rick Aviles
Joe Strummer
Steve Buscemi
Music by John Lurie
Cinematography Robby Müller
Editing by Melody London

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