Mystery Train (1989)
Starring: Steve Buschemi (Reservoir Dogs; Living In Oblivion), Nicoletta Braschi (Life Is Beautiful; Down By Law)
Directed By: Jim Jarmusch (Broken Flowers; Coffee And Cigarettes)
Overview: The tale of three stories that share the connection of Elvis and a hotel in Memphis, Tennessee.
Acting: Even Screamin' Jay Hawkins is in this and you know what? He's an amazing actor! Sadly he's not been in nearly enough films. Tom Noonan, a little known actor I've recently grown to love tells a wonderful little tale about the spirit of Elvis. You know, having Steve Buschemi in a movie is never a bad idea either. I did noticed some weak casting of tertiary characters or the occasional take that should have been redone, but overall for a low budget production, very decent.
Cinematography: The shooting style is fairly standard, however there are successful attempt at art-house moments. The opening and closing shots, the decor of the rooms and the terrific costumes of the hotel staff are certainly the highlights in this category. The perspective you may have about a booming birth of Rock and Roll town like Memphis is quickly shattered by frequent spans of lazy streets and yards filled with broken cars and furniture. America, the Beautiful.
Script: "Say, you have anymore of those Japanese plums, or any other exotic fruits from around the globe?"
The best written character would have to be Screamin' Jay Hawkins with such lines as the one above and 'you look like a damned mosquito-legged chimpanzee'. Again this category does not excel in poetry or insight as it is more common and everyday in its observations, but the language barrier lines are fun, and there's occasional wit strewn throughout. Where there are moment of monologue, they're more drunken ramblings or purposely annoying chatter. Good, but nothing memorable.
Plot: One story about a Japanese tourist couple from Yokohama, one about a woman stuck in a layover, and one about Memphisites who prove that booze and guns don't mix. You've seen this kind of story before in Four Rooms, not to mention the exceptional Magnolia, and people like stories that reconnect the whole at the end, be it as simple as having it take place in the same apartment complex for the 10-Part Decalogue, or a brisk passing in the street as we see in the Three Colours trilogy (Bleu, Blanc, Rouge). If this tale did not have this connection, it would have failed in my books, because individually, the stories weren't all that fantastic.
Mood: I'd have said that this was obviously an early directorial effort because of the pacing, but even Jarmush's newest, Broken Flowers, also drifts in a slow tone. His films need not concern themselves with the petty ramblings of dialogue, and that's special, but the overall themes of 'quirky synchronicity' just didn't resonate enough with me to move me. I've seen three of his films now, and I'll be giving him the full chance of five more, but I gather I'll have to expect the same from the rest, instead of those filled with lesson-teaching depth or action.
Overall Rating: 72% (I Think I Can, I Think I Can)
Aftertaste: If it's one thing Silent and Experimental film has taught me, it's the patience to endure long stretches of quiet characters. The girlfriend on the other hand, not so much. She often complained about the flow of the first act and though mostly redeemed at the end, she still did not see the reason for that first tale. After contemplation, I also thought that these Japanese tourists meshed poorly with the other two perfectly interlocked chapters. I'll agree their segment should have been much shorter, or more closely entwined in the fold.