Wholly financed by Japanese electronics giant JVC, a first for an American production, Mystery Train is a three-episode pic handled by indie writer-director Jim Jarmusch in his usual playful, minimalist style.
It could be almost dubbed ‘Memphis Stories’, as this is Jarmusch’s tribute to the city of Elvis and other musical greats. Characteristically, the director explores the crumbling, decaying edges of the city through the eyes of foreigners: Japanese teenagers, an Italian widow and a British punk.
Story one, Far from Yokohama, intros teenagers Jun (Masatoshi Nagase) and Mitzuko (Youki Kudoh), who arrive by train, do a puzzling guided tour of Sun Studio (they can’t understand a word the guide says), sit awed in front of a statue of Presley and check into the Arcade Hotel.
Story two, A Ghost, features Nicoletta Braschi as Luisa, in Memphis to take her deceased husband’s body back to Rome. She checks into the Arcade and meets talkative DeeDee (Elisabeth Bracco) in the lobby.
Final segment, Lost in Space, picks up the story of abandoned Brit Johnny (Joe Strummer), who goes on a drunken binge with DeeDee’s brother (Steve Buscemi) and a black friend (Rick Aviles). Johnny shoots a liquor store clerk, and the trio hides out in the Arcade; next morning, trying to stop Johnny from shooting herself, Buscemi gets shot in the leg.