Mystery Train (1989)
August 15, 2022 6:14 PM - Subscribe

A seedy hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, provides the backdrop for three separate tales, featuring everything from a kitsch-obsessed Japanese couple (Masatoshi Nagase, Yuki Kudo) to a trio of amateur robbers (Joe Strummer, Rick Aviles, Steve Buscemi) who discover the true nature of their relationship during a botched heist. Linking the stories together is the hotel's eccentric night clerk (Screamin' Jay Hawkins) as well as the spirit of Elvis Presley.

Written and directed by Jim Jarmusch.

89% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

Currently streaming in the US on Criterion. Also available for digital rental via Amazon.
posted by DirtyOldTown (7 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Jiffy Squid!? Turn that damn thing off!
posted by talking leaf at 6:38 PM on August 15, 2022 [1 favorite]

Lots of fun to watch for someone (i.e. me) who moved to Memphis six or so years after this was shot. Some familiar faces in the movie; this guy ended up being the judge at my divorce hearing.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:40 PM on August 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

This is my all time favourite movie. The movie poster in this post is one I have framed in my home office as a gift from my husband a few birthdays ago!
posted by Kitteh at 6:04 AM on August 16, 2022 [3 favorites]

Screamin' Jay Hawkins was so good in this, just a truly idiosyncratic oddball. As someone who followed his career, it seems less like Jarmusch created a character for him and more like he invited Hawkins in to do his Hawkins thing. To the benefit of the film, too.

I'm a huge fan of Hawkins' late career release Black Music for White People which is a great record in and of itself, but also a positively savage title.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:06 AM on August 16, 2022 [2 favorites]

Kitteh, it's also MY all-time favorite movie. I really have always wanted to take Amtrak up to Memphis from Dallas, never tried to plot the trip out IRL. Maybe it's time I finally did that so I can look for a hitchhiker that's strangely reminiscent of The King...

Jarmusch can be really polarizing. I love his work, but if I'm going to introduce someone who's unfamiliar with his oeuvre, this is usually the film I point them to.

Less slow/draggy than some of his others, ripe with humor, pop-culture references and a great showcase of Joe Strummer's acting chops before he passed away far too early in this life, IMO.

Screamin' Jay Hawkins is just the cherry on top. This is a love poem written out of nostalgia for an America that only ever existed in our imaginations.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 8:48 AM on August 17, 2022

I loved this movie so much when it came out that I am afraid to rewatch it.
posted by acrasis at 5:27 PM on August 17, 2022 [1 favorite]

I watched this on a Cinemax free weekend (remember those?). I boarded this train for the possibility of nudity, and I stayed because it was like nothing I’d never seen before. Like acrasis, I too am reluctant to watch it again, fearing that it won’t be as novel or engrossing as it was when I was 11… but if I can watch Back to the Future almost forty years after my first viewing and still find new insights and delights, this one ought to be a no-brainer.
posted by infinitewindow at 11:43 AM on August 21, 2022

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