Jim Jarmusch is one of those directors I should pay more attention to. I have only seen a handful of his films, but they always entertain. They all come from a distinct and unique perspective and feature interesting characters in odd dream-like settings. I find it hard to describe but easy to visualize. Among the films I have seen are Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai, Broken Flowers, and Dead Man. Now I can add Mystery Train to the mix, although I am pretty sure this is a revisit as I remember bits and pieces throughout, although they all seem to come from the first story with the Japanese tourists.
Jarmusch has a way of looking at American landscapes through the filter of an outsider, romanticizing the mundane, seeing beauty in shabby sadness, and allows his shots to linger and be directed by what the characters are doing. Mystery Train is a bit of a love song to Americana, a look at Memphis drenched in the spirit of Elvis. It is a trio of loosely connected stories that have a delicious pace that just draws you in.
The first story centers on Jun and Mitsuko (Masatoshi Nagase and Youki Kudoh), a young Japanese couple on a rock 'n' roll odyssey through America. We catch up with them as they ride a train listening to one tape player and argue over her love for Elvis and his preference for Carl Perkins. They walk through the lonely looking streets of Jarmusch's Memphis, with boarded up storefronts and almost complete lack of pedestrians. We follow them as they carry their suitcase suspended between them on a stick as they talk about going to Graceland and find themselves at Sun Studio. They wind up in a hotel room (without a TV) and hear a random gunshot as we move onto the next story.
The middle segment introduces us to Luisa (Nicolletta Braschi) and Dee Dee (Elizabeth Bracco). The former is visiting from Italy to retrieve the remains of her dead husband. The latter has just broken up with her boyfriend and is looking to stay somewhere for a night before getting out of town. The two meet in the lobby of the same hotel the Japanese couple are in and share a room. They both hear a gunshot as we move to the third story.