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Mystery Train

62. Mystery Train (1989)

I discovered recently that certain people on this forum actually strongly dislike this film, but by putting it on my list, I hope some people out there will check it out and love it as much as I do. From the six Jarmusch films I've seen, this is definitely the one that speaks to me the most and I'm definitely not the only one who has that opinion. At its time, it received a very warm reception from critics (in general) and Roger Ebert later even added it to his list of 'great movies'. It also won Jim Jarmusch the prize for 'Best Artistic Attribution' at Cannes.

I liked this film a lot after the first time I saw it, but I didn't immediately rank it amongst my absolute favorite films of all time. The film never really left my head, though, and I found myself thinking about it a lot and revisiting certain scenes. I decided to rewatch it and then I fell in love with it completely.

This film consists of three intertwined stories that all take place in a gritty Memphis hotel at the same time, but they are told one after another. The tight structure of the overall film and the scenes, the wonderful characters, the deadpan comedy and the extremely effective atmosphere that represents alienation, decay and coolness make this a very special film.

I'm a big fan of Elvis Presley and his music and I thought the three stories of this film insightfully analyzed certain aspects of the Elvis legend. His heritage and his 'ghost' are never faraway in this film. Jarmusch uses small things like portraits on the wall, pop references, music (Elvis' cover of the song Blue Moon is very effectively used in this film, for instance), urban legends and even his actual ghost to symbolize the immortality of Elvis and more so, the human problems the King of Rock'n Roll had to deal with, even with his fame and wealth. Elvis is more like a symbol in this film instead of a person that actually existed. The film seems haunted by the ideas and thoughts that are provoked by the legend and the ultimate fate of Elvis' persona.
All of the characters in this film have issues (even when they are not always explicitly expressed) and somehow I found meaning in all of their struggles and experiences.

Another reason why I love this film so much is because of the oddly comical moments between the night clerk and the bellboy at the Memphis hotel, played by Screamin' Jay Hawkins and Cinqué Lee. They are simply awesome!

If you're looking for a film with a classic plot and a typical conclusion, this is definitely not the film for you. If you're looking for an atmospheric experience that focuses on characters and small details and also has an interesting visual look, there's a fair chance you'll like this. Go see it and decide for yourself...