Another in a series of artistic triumphs for Jarmusch to close out the 80’s from Strangers in Paradise to Down by Law to this in 1989. Like the other two, it’s a film structured in three sections
A Jarmuschian vibe is created by a measured rhythm in the scene (pauses and carries everything a beat long)—– while the skeleton of the film is formally so sound and distinct
Visual poetry—dilapidated and decrepit—here- in his first color film, Jarmusch uses some neon lights to add to the mix- he also settles on one city instead of multiple- he picks Memphis here and throughout inhabits it— Memphis is a lead character
The formal narrative structure strategies deployed here are pre-Tarantino. There have been other films that have been this or more creative—Rashoman, Intolerance, Destiny from Lang, Blind Chance by Kieslowksi— Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs, Run Lola Run, Memento– all after
Meditations on man’s inability to community—language barriers
Jazz score by John Lurie
Credits elliptically edited—really well done- same with end credits
A boarded up movie house, bars, graffiti of course in the mise-en-scene– another decaying hotel—but it’s art—pool halls, walking down the street
For his films color film Jarmusch picks green and his dominant realistic production design color choice– Masatoshi Nagase’s jacket, the hotel interiors, booths in the bar, the radio in the hotel is a mint color, the streets are green from the street lighting- Buscemi sits in a green chair
Jarmusch enjoys the shots of Masatoshi Nagase and Yuki Kudo on the ground like Ozu—we have trains here like Ozu
It’s a hipster film for sure- fish out of water comedy (Japanese and Italian Tourists and an Englishman who looks like Elvis in Memphis).
The window shot at night with Nagase—pink lighting behind him and green out front
Form- repetition and variation- like the shot from behind Bill Murray in Broken Flowers we get the same streets here and different people walking down them—in the third section we get them in the car (drinking) and this actually bugs me a little, wish it was them walking to keep things tighter
Green luggage of Elizabeth Bracco
The gunshot, the hotel, the radio connects them (Tom Waits is the unseen DJ)- “Blue Moon” by Elvis
[…] Mystery Train – Jarmusch […]
So many films are set in NYC, LA, Chicago, Florida, Texas, etc.
I love films set in less common locations like this. What are some other examples of great films set in American cities outside of the major ones? Not including Coen Brothers films.
@James Trapp- not sure if Detroit is too big too qualify but Jarmusch had to semi-recent films set in Detroit (Only Lovers Left Alive) and Paterson, New Jersey (Paterson obviously) as well
@Drake – thanks, I have not seen either, might do Jarmusch Study in near future. Regardig Detroit, not really about size just curious about films in cities that are less frequently used for movie settings. Phoenix for example is the 5th largest citiy in the US while Boston in only the 24th largest city yet far more films have been made and set in Boston.
@James Trapp- Interesting- hadn’t thought about that
@James T – some of Alexander Payne’s films: Nebraska, Sideways and About Schmidt fit this I think
@Harry- Great call Harry. Altman obviously made films in Nashville and Kansas City (and others I’m sure- but those have the name in the title).