Mystery Train


1h 50m 1989
Mystery Train

Brief Synopsis

An exploration of Memphis, Tennessee seen through the eyes of non-Americans.

Photos & Videos

Film Details

Also Known As
Far From Yokohama, Ghost, A, Lost in Space
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Release Date
1989
Production Company
George Walden; Steve Carroll
Location
Memphis, Tennessee, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 50m

Synopsis

An exploration of Memphis, Tennessee seen through the eyes of non-Americans.

Crew

Gina R. Alfano

Dialogue Editor

Jeanne Atkin

Sound Editor

Jamaine Bell

Production Assistant

Beth Bernstein

Production Assistant

Michael Berry

Location Manager

Dan Bishop

Production Designer

Douglas B Bowne

Music

Molly Bradford

Assistant

Tim Brennan

Negative Cutting

Jeff Butcher

Property Master

Kate Butler

Assistant Camera Operator

Steve Carroll

Production Insurance

Dana Congdon

Apprentice

Marco Constanza

Foley Artist

Peggy Craven

Production Assistant

Rick Dior

Sound

Karen Eisenstadt

Production Auditor

Paul Ferrara

Key Grip

Dianna Freas

Other

Dianna Freas

Set Decorator

Yoshiko Furusawa

Other

Tony Garnier

Music

Eugene Gearty

Sound Effects Editor

Mark Goodermote

Boom Operator

Valerie Goodman

Music

Eric Gruber

Construction Coordinator

Kunjiro Harata

Executive Producer

Eric Heffron

Assistant Director

Robert Hein

Sound Editor

Kathie Hersch

Production Manager

Donna Hester

Location Assistant

Mary Hickey

Sound Editor

Mark Higashino

Photography

Connie Hoy

Assistant Director

Jim Jarmusch

Screenplay

Anna Doyle Jefferson

Production Assistant

Georgia Kacandes

Production Coordinator

Frank Kern

Dialogue Editor

Daryl Kerrigan

Wardrobe Supervisor

Gary King

Special Effects Coordinator

Tina Klein

Production Assistant

Lori Kornspun

Adr Editor

Lisa Krueger

Script Supervisor

Drew Kunin

Sound Mixer

Bob Laden

Makeup

Tom Lazarus

Music

Paul Leonard

Grip

Cris Lombardi

Assistant Camera Operator

Melody London

Editor

John Lurie

Music

Demetra J Macbride

Associate Producer

Ian Macdougall

Interpreter

David Mackay

Electrician

Deborah Martin

Sound Editor

Takuya Matsuyama

Props

John Joseph Minardi

Grip

Tom Mittlestadt

Property Master Assistant

Robby Muller

Director Of Photography

Norik Murao

Casting

Elisabeth Myles

Script Supervisor

Robert O'bleness

Electrician

Kazuki Omori

Interpreter

Todd R Pfeiffer

Set Production Assistant

Christopher Porter

Gaffer

Melvin Pukowsky

Dolly Grip

Jay Rabinowitz

Assistant Editor

Marc Ribot

Music

Stacy Robison

Assistant

Kerry Sherin

Production Coordinator

Ahmad Shirazi

Dialogue Editor

Rudd Simmons

Line Producer

Linn Sitler

Assistant

Novella Smith

Casting

Paul Snow

Production Assistant

Danielle Sotet

Production Auditor

Meredith Soupios

Hair

Meredith Soupios

Makeup Supervisor

Jim Stark

Producer

Pat Stubbs

Transportation

Hideaki Suda

Executive Producer

Masayoshi Sukita

Photography

Jeff Taylor

Production Assistant

George Walden

Production Insurance

Sylvia Waliga

Dialogue Editor

Jan Walker

Location Assistant

Charles Walsh

Transportation

Noel Wiggins

Production Assistant

Sherman Willmot

Production Assistant

Eric Wilson

Electrician

Naomi Wise

Electrician

Carol Wood

Costume Designer

Elan Yaari

Best Boy

Kohta Yamata

Casting

Gene Zippo

Color Timer

Videos

Movie Clip

Film Details

Also Known As
Far From Yokohama, Ghost, A, Lost in Space
MPAA Rating
Genre
Comedy
Drama
Release Date
1989
Production Company
George Walden; Steve Carroll
Location
Memphis, Tennessee, USA

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 50m

Articles

Mystery Train - Jim Jarmusch's MYSTERY TRAIN on DVD


Jim Jarmusch's Mystery Train is an easy-going ramble of a film graced by an amusing and likeable ensemble of players. The director doesn't take his static long-take style to the extreme of the minimalist Stranger than Paradise, a film that can resemble a collection of moving, talking figures trespassing in a series of still images.

Mystery Train takes as its theme the mystique of Memphis and the Elvis Presley cult. Its three overlapping stories all take place on one lazy night, and involve foreigners experiencing America as a strange land. "Far From Yokohama" follows young rock 'n' roll tourists Mitsuko and Jun (Youki Kudoh & Masatoshi Nagase) as they cross the country on an Amtrak train and then drag their luggage through a depressed section of town in search of Graceland. Mitsuko worships Elvis while Jun favors Carl Perkins. They come by accident upon the former home of Sun Records, the storefront recording studio in which their favorites were recorded. It doesn't matter that they can't follow a word of the chirpy tour guide's rushed spiel, because they're looking only to celebrate their preconceived notion of an America dedicated to rock 'n' roll. They end up in a creaky hotel, where the Night Clerk and Bellboy (Screamin' Jay Hawkins & Cinqué Lee) provide a sort of deadpan comedy relief.

"A Ghost" introduces us to Luisa (Nicoletta Braschi of Life is Beautiful), a widow stuck in Memphis overnight awaiting a flight back to Italy. She must deal with various minor predators, including a creep in a diner (Tom Noonan) who tells her an "Elvis sighting" story and then expects to be paid. Luisa gravitates to the same hotel. To avoid more problems she shares a room with the upset, penniless Dee Dee (Elizabeth Bracco) -- and in the middle of the night experiences her own ghostly encounter.

"Lost in Space" gives us Johnny (Joe Strummer of the punk band The Clash), an Englishman who has just broken up with Dee Dee. Johnny has also just been laid off from his job, and is getting drunk and dangerous in a local bar when his best friend Will Robinson (Rick Aviles), and Dee Dee's brother, Charlie the Barber (Steve Buscemi) arrive to take him home. The trio instead cruise the dark streets until a run-in with a racist liquor store clerk turns violent.

Knowing fans will immediately respond to the notable music talent in the film's cast, a habit Jim Jarmusch's films share with Jonathan Demme's around this time. Mystery Train takes its relaxed tempo from songs by the likes of Presley, Rufus Thomas, Junior Parker and Roy Orbison. Some viewers will find the pace too slow but the luminous images of cinematographer Robby Müller are rewarding in themselves. Only after the start of the film's second story do we realize that the tales are happening on the same Tuesday night. Luisa walks the same streets as do Jun and Mitsuko, only an hour or so later. The Japanese tourists pass characters from the later stories, and everybody hears the same gunshot in the hotel. Although the three stories occupy the same space, the characters mostly remain oblivious to each other. They also share 'legendary space" with the film's other "character", the ghost of Elvis Presley. Mitsuko and Jun have come from the other side of the world just to pick up his vibrations, while Englishman Johnny resents being given the nickname "Elvis" by his friends. The sensible Luisa seemingly has no connection to the Elvis mystique, yet receives a visitation as if she were a candidate for rock 'n' roll sainthood, a Bernadette of Memphis.

The film's loose structure offers plenty of opportunities for Jim Jarmusch's characters to "behave". The optimistic Mitsuko brightens when a Tennessean addresses her with a Japanese word. She playfully tries to get the outwardly emotionless Jun to break a smile. One familiar still shows both of their faces smeared with lipstick. The other characters have more conventional interplay, with Dee Dee spilling her heartaches to Luisa and Johnny's two drunken friends trying to cheer him up. Connecting all three stories are the discreet Night Clerk and the insecure bellboy. The two employees regard the variety of hotel guests without judging them.

Because of the shared characters and hotel setting, we keep expecting Mystery Train's stories to eventually dovetail and bring its characters together. That construction has become its own convention and cliché, particularly after the scattershot omnibus format employed by Quentin Tarantino later in the 1990s. But Jim Jarmusch makes no move in that direction, preferring to link his characters with miracles of a more everyday kind. In the middle of the night, everyone turns on his or her radio at the same time, experiencing the Elvis song "Blue Moon" as yet another mysterious shared experience.

Criterion's Blu-ray of Mystery Train gives us Robby Müller's expressive images in a glowing HD transfer. The movie is a musical showcase, a fact stressed in the disc extras produced by Susan Arosteguy. The best item on board is a featurette about the depressed area of Memphis chosen as the film's locations, and the legacy of the music that was made there. Several witnesses to the music heyday of the neighborhood share memories of the times, including one man who remembers how Sun Records impresario Sam Phillips dropped all of his black artists as soon as Elvis and other white performers came on the scene.

A gallery of on-set photos is included as well. In lieu of a conventional commentary, director Jarmusch answers reader questions in an audio extra. His answers are polite, thorough, and very slow. The late Screamin' Jay Hawkins appears in an excerpt from a docu-bio, talking about his filmmaking experience. Hawkin's dynamic song I Put a Spell on You has seen soundtrack use in many movies. As Jarmusch explains in his Q&A session, when he licensed the recording for Stranger in Paradise he discovered that Hawkins had no rights to his own work and would not see any of the money. The director saw to it that the musician was paid a separate fee.

For more information about Mystery Train, visit The Criterion Collection. To order Mystery Train, go to TCM Shopping.

by Glenn Erickson
Mystery Train - Jim Jarmusch's Mystery Train On Dvd

Mystery Train - Jim Jarmusch's MYSTERY TRAIN on DVD

Jim Jarmusch's Mystery Train is an easy-going ramble of a film graced by an amusing and likeable ensemble of players. The director doesn't take his static long-take style to the extreme of the minimalist Stranger than Paradise, a film that can resemble a collection of moving, talking figures trespassing in a series of still images. Mystery Train takes as its theme the mystique of Memphis and the Elvis Presley cult. Its three overlapping stories all take place on one lazy night, and involve foreigners experiencing America as a strange land. "Far From Yokohama" follows young rock 'n' roll tourists Mitsuko and Jun (Youki Kudoh & Masatoshi Nagase) as they cross the country on an Amtrak train and then drag their luggage through a depressed section of town in search of Graceland. Mitsuko worships Elvis while Jun favors Carl Perkins. They come by accident upon the former home of Sun Records, the storefront recording studio in which their favorites were recorded. It doesn't matter that they can't follow a word of the chirpy tour guide's rushed spiel, because they're looking only to celebrate their preconceived notion of an America dedicated to rock 'n' roll. They end up in a creaky hotel, where the Night Clerk and Bellboy (Screamin' Jay Hawkins & Cinqué Lee) provide a sort of deadpan comedy relief. "A Ghost" introduces us to Luisa (Nicoletta Braschi of Life is Beautiful), a widow stuck in Memphis overnight awaiting a flight back to Italy. She must deal with various minor predators, including a creep in a diner (Tom Noonan) who tells her an "Elvis sighting" story and then expects to be paid. Luisa gravitates to the same hotel. To avoid more problems she shares a room with the upset, penniless Dee Dee (Elizabeth Bracco) -- and in the middle of the night experiences her own ghostly encounter. "Lost in Space" gives us Johnny (Joe Strummer of the punk band The Clash), an Englishman who has just broken up with Dee Dee. Johnny has also just been laid off from his job, and is getting drunk and dangerous in a local bar when his best friend Will Robinson (Rick Aviles), and Dee Dee's brother, Charlie the Barber (Steve Buscemi) arrive to take him home. The trio instead cruise the dark streets until a run-in with a racist liquor store clerk turns violent. Knowing fans will immediately respond to the notable music talent in the film's cast, a habit Jim Jarmusch's films share with Jonathan Demme's around this time. Mystery Train takes its relaxed tempo from songs by the likes of Presley, Rufus Thomas, Junior Parker and Roy Orbison. Some viewers will find the pace too slow but the luminous images of cinematographer Robby Müller are rewarding in themselves. Only after the start of the film's second story do we realize that the tales are happening on the same Tuesday night. Luisa walks the same streets as do Jun and Mitsuko, only an hour or so later. The Japanese tourists pass characters from the later stories, and everybody hears the same gunshot in the hotel. Although the three stories occupy the same space, the characters mostly remain oblivious to each other. They also share 'legendary space" with the film's other "character", the ghost of Elvis Presley. Mitsuko and Jun have come from the other side of the world just to pick up his vibrations, while Englishman Johnny resents being given the nickname "Elvis" by his friends. The sensible Luisa seemingly has no connection to the Elvis mystique, yet receives a visitation as if she were a candidate for rock 'n' roll sainthood, a Bernadette of Memphis. The film's loose structure offers plenty of opportunities for Jim Jarmusch's characters to "behave". The optimistic Mitsuko brightens when a Tennessean addresses her with a Japanese word. She playfully tries to get the outwardly emotionless Jun to break a smile. One familiar still shows both of their faces smeared with lipstick. The other characters have more conventional interplay, with Dee Dee spilling her heartaches to Luisa and Johnny's two drunken friends trying to cheer him up. Connecting all three stories are the discreet Night Clerk and the insecure bellboy. The two employees regard the variety of hotel guests without judging them. Because of the shared characters and hotel setting, we keep expecting Mystery Train's stories to eventually dovetail and bring its characters together. That construction has become its own convention and cliché, particularly after the scattershot omnibus format employed by Quentin Tarantino later in the 1990s. But Jim Jarmusch makes no move in that direction, preferring to link his characters with miracles of a more everyday kind. In the middle of the night, everyone turns on his or her radio at the same time, experiencing the Elvis song "Blue Moon" as yet another mysterious shared experience. Criterion's Blu-ray of Mystery Train gives us Robby Müller's expressive images in a glowing HD transfer. The movie is a musical showcase, a fact stressed in the disc extras produced by Susan Arosteguy. The best item on board is a featurette about the depressed area of Memphis chosen as the film's locations, and the legacy of the music that was made there. Several witnesses to the music heyday of the neighborhood share memories of the times, including one man who remembers how Sun Records impresario Sam Phillips dropped all of his black artists as soon as Elvis and other white performers came on the scene. A gallery of on-set photos is included as well. In lieu of a conventional commentary, director Jarmusch answers reader questions in an audio extra. His answers are polite, thorough, and very slow. The late Screamin' Jay Hawkins appears in an excerpt from a docu-bio, talking about his filmmaking experience. Hawkin's dynamic song I Put a Spell on You has seen soundtrack use in many movies. As Jarmusch explains in his Q&A session, when he licensed the recording for Stranger in Paradise he discovered that Hawkins had no rights to his own work and would not see any of the money. The director saw to it that the musician was paid a separate fee. For more information about Mystery Train, visit The Criterion Collection. To order Mystery Train, go to TCM Shopping. by Glenn Erickson

TCM Remembers Joe Strummer,1952-2002


Joe Strummer, the former lead singer of the seminal punk group, The Clash, and who would later compose and act in some of the artiest cult films of the last 15 years, died of a heart attack on December 22 at his home in Somerset, England. He was 50.

Strummer was born John Mellor on August 21, 1952 in Ankara, Turkey, to a British diplomat. Unlike most of his punk contemporaries, Strummer was educated at a private school, but soon felt a strong desire to perform music. In 1976, he and guitarist-songwriter Mick Jones formed The Clash, releasing their first records the following year. The Clash quickly established themselves as one of the most potent bands in the UK punk explosion, releasing a string of scathing, explosive singles over the next few years: "White Riot", "London Calling", "Train in Vain (Stand by Me)", "Rock the Casbah" and "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" establishing them as one of the few bands to successfully combine raw political fervor with rancorous force and musical versatility.

The Clash would eventually disband in 1986, and Strummer soon found himself in the film industry when British filmmaker Alex Cox approached him to contribute to the soundtrack for the punk biopic Sid and Nancy (1986). A fruitful career in films followed and Strummer produced the music for Cox's irreverent historical drama Walker (1987) and Julian Schnabel's moving story of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat's short life in Basquiat (1996). Thanks to his snarling charisma, Strummer also found himself in front of the camera for some notable directors. He played a street thug in Martin Scorsese's The King of Comedy (1983); an amusing cameo in Alex Cox's spaghetti western spoof Straight to Hell (1987); and appeared in cult director Jim Jarmusch's wry comedy Mystery Train (1989) (as a British loner stranded in a Memphis motel) and Aki Kaurismaki's eerie mood pieceI Hired a Contract Killer (1990). Most impressively, Strummer's songs have been featured in several recent films: the John Cusack produced Grosse Pointe Blank (1997); Stephen Daldry's popular hit Billy Elliot (2000); and Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) - all prominently feature Joe Strummer's fiery vocals, coloring and propelling the movie in some manner. Strummer is survived by his wife Lucy, two daughters and a stepdaughter.

by Michael T. Toole

TCM Remembers Joe Strummer,1952-2002

Joe Strummer, the former lead singer of the seminal punk group, The Clash, and who would later compose and act in some of the artiest cult films of the last 15 years, died of a heart attack on December 22 at his home in Somerset, England. He was 50. Strummer was born John Mellor on August 21, 1952 in Ankara, Turkey, to a British diplomat. Unlike most of his punk contemporaries, Strummer was educated at a private school, but soon felt a strong desire to perform music. In 1976, he and guitarist-songwriter Mick Jones formed The Clash, releasing their first records the following year. The Clash quickly established themselves as one of the most potent bands in the UK punk explosion, releasing a string of scathing, explosive singles over the next few years: "White Riot", "London Calling", "Train in Vain (Stand by Me)", "Rock the Casbah" and "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" establishing them as one of the few bands to successfully combine raw political fervor with rancorous force and musical versatility. The Clash would eventually disband in 1986, and Strummer soon found himself in the film industry when British filmmaker Alex Cox approached him to contribute to the soundtrack for the punk biopic Sid and Nancy (1986). A fruitful career in films followed and Strummer produced the music for Cox's irreverent historical drama Walker (1987) and Julian Schnabel's moving story of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat's short life in Basquiat (1996). Thanks to his snarling charisma, Strummer also found himself in front of the camera for some notable directors. He played a street thug in Martin Scorsese's The King of Comedy (1983); an amusing cameo in Alex Cox's spaghetti western spoof Straight to Hell (1987); and appeared in cult director Jim Jarmusch's wry comedy Mystery Train (1989) (as a British loner stranded in a Memphis motel) and Aki Kaurismaki's eerie mood pieceI Hired a Contract Killer (1990). Most impressively, Strummer's songs have been featured in several recent films: the John Cusack produced Grosse Pointe Blank (1997); Stephen Daldry's popular hit Billy Elliot (2000); and Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) - all prominently feature Joe Strummer's fiery vocals, coloring and propelling the movie in some manner. Strummer is survived by his wife Lucy, two daughters and a stepdaughter. by Michael T. Toole

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States Fall November 17, 1989

Released in United States on Video November 15, 1990

Re-released in United States on Video July 11, 1995

Released in United States June 1989

Released in United States August 1989

Released in United States September 1989

Released in United States September 14, 1989

Released in United States November 1989

Shown at Midnight Sun Film Festival in Finland June 14-18, 1989.

Shown at Edinburgh Festival August 12-27, 1989.

Shown at New York Film Festival September 29 & 30, 1989.

Shown at Toronto Festival of Festivals September 14, 1989.

Shown at the London Film Festival November 10-26, 1989.

Began shooting August 1988.

Three episodes are titled: "Far From Yokohama," "A Ghost" and "Lost in Space." This is Jarmusch's first color film since "Permanent Vacation" (USA/1980).

Released in United States Fall November 17, 1989

Released in United States on Video November 15, 1990

Re-released in United States on Video July 11, 1995

Released in United States June 1989 (Shown at Midnight Sun Film Festival in Finland June 14-18, 1989.)

Released in United States August 1989 (Shown at Edinburgh Festival August 12-27, 1989.)

Released in United States September 1989 (Shown at New York Film Festival September 29 & 30, 1989.)

Released in United States September 14, 1989 (Shown at Toronto Festival of Festivals September 14, 1989.)

Released in United States November 1989 (Shown at the London Film Festival November 10-26, 1989.)