Mystery Train

Jim Jarmusch's 1989 feature gives us three stories occurring over the same day in a sleazy section of Memphis: a young Japanese couple (Youki Kudoh and Masatoshi Nagase) visit the rock shrines of their demigods; an Italian woman (Nicoletta Braschi) whose husband has just died on their honeymoon shares a hotel room with an American woman (Elizabeth Bracco) who has just left her English boyfriend; and the English boyfriend (Joe Strummer) hangs out with two buddies (Rick Aviles and Steve Buscemi) and shoots a clerk in a liquor store. There's some thoughtful work in the selective color of Robby Müller's cinematography that neatly matches the formal play with narrative. The lack of familiarity with Memphis makes too many of the secondary characters and gags seem like New York transplants, but the charm of Kudoh, Nagase, and Braschi helps to compensate for their partially replaying notions about foreigners that we got in Jarmusch's earlier movies. 113 min.

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