Mystery Train (1989)
Director: Jim Jarmusch
The film is basically three loosely connected short plays, the first one being two Japanese tourists, a young romantic couple who have come to town to see for themselves this Mecca of American Blues, and who argue the whole way through. The second story features a beautiful widow who gets stranded in the middle of the night and gets continually ripped off by the “colorful” people you run across in a city at night. The final, and my personal favorite story features Joe Strummer and a young Steve Buscemi goes on a night long crime spree. All three stories are brought together by one run down hotel clerked by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins in one of the loudest bellhop suits you’ll ever see. My wife and I took a vacation to Memphis back in 2012, a little over twenty years after this film was made. The Memphis we saw was not the Memphis from this film. It was a cleaner, more tourist friendly city, but as we walked from Beale Street down to Sun Studios we could definitely see the seedy old underside that this film so poetically displayed. In the beginning of this movie two Japanese teenagers get a quick tour of Sun Studios, where Elvis and Johnny Cash recorded their first hit records, by a bored, fast talking guide. Our tour, to the current operator’s credit was much less rushed and allowed for a cool unique experience, but in a way I wish I could have experienced this Memphis. While it was definitely more dangerous and seedy, it also rings much more authentic and rich. This movie is a captivating for its innovative story-telling, unique independent acting, and its cool, dark cinematography that shows a side of Memphis that is a far cry from the tourist destination the city fathers would like to promote.