MadZack’s review published on Letterboxd :
Mystery Train is the third and final masterpiece from Jim Jarmusch. It is iconic, inspired, and unique. It's a film about culture. It's a film about Elvis. Mystery Train is a film about moments. It's about the absurd and it's about Memphis. Mystery Train is perfect art, perfectly cool, and perfectly Jarmuschian. Mystery Train is a masterwork in film language.
Mystery Train is the absurd spectacle I've been dreaming of. It tells three separate, but connected, stories about different kinds of people who find themselves in Memphis. For Jarmusch, Memphis is a mystical place, it's like the fabled land of Oz with Elvis himself as its magical wizard. Jarmsuch makes of Memphis an impossible mix-up of anywhere-USA banality and divinity, as if a pilgrimage were taking place in this unremarkable but strange and holy city.
All of the characters end up at the same seedy hotel run by none other than Screamin' Jay Hawkins. The hotel acts as a beacon in the holy neon night. Screamin' Jay's hotel is located at the center of the world, fated to house the absurd heroes of Jarmusch's magnum opus. Among them is a young and rockabilly-obsessed Japanese couple who smear make-up all over their faces and smoke cigarettes in the coolest possible ways, there's an Italian widow who receives a visit from Elvis Presley's spirit, and a group of drunken bandits in need of a place to lay low, as played by the likes of the legendary Joe Strummer and the massively talented Steve Buscemi. These are Jarmusch's absurd heroes and I love each and every one of them. Not a single one reminds me of myself, they remind me of the beautiful nature of the absurd and the happiness found in genuinely embracing total pop culture.
Elvis is everywhere! Mystery Train shows us a bygone mentality, that of cool wonder and showmanship, greased hair, leather jackets, and punk rock mysticism. Mystery Train operates as a tour of pop culture's ancient pharaohs and lost pyramids. Mystery Train is visually saturated in absurd coolness. Everything about this film, especially the young Japanese couple, is extremely, absurdly fucking cool. All of our heroes end up striking a pose and each cultivate their own signature cool posture. This is Americana gone mad and beautiful, wild and pure. I fucking love the coolness! It is genuine and unironic, it is a truth, a beautiful absurd truth! Elvis is King and Memphis is the City of God!
Jarmusch uses absurd connections to tie his stories together. There are absurd, methodically stationed landmarks that act as markers, creating a timeline of events. It is a genius absurdity here. The connections are preposterous and gorgeous. Perfectly conceived and crafted. Jarmusch deconstructs the mosaic piece and turns it into a working atlas. The anthology film becomes the Citizen Kane of the American independent cinema. Nothing more genius has been made since. Mystery Train is about Warholian time travelers who praise the King and worship the absurd, like the priests of some rockabilly Babylon.
I have to spend some time talking about the most iconic image of this film, which is also the most iconic image of Jarmusch's career. That of the Japanese couple sitting in front of the hotel bed covered in make-up with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths. This iconic image is a perfect one. It is the best visual representation I have ever seen of the absurd. It is the most beautiful thing I've ever known. It sucks me into its truths and its coolness. It is my most favorite image in all of film. When I look at it, the absurd is attractive, romantic, cool, and bohemian, out of time and space, and into the ethereal truths of existence. Mystery Train is the absurd at its most clearly defined and at its most alive and joyful. It is the absurd at its most cool and at its most confident. Mystery Train gives us the holy, gives us the broken, and makes absurd heroes of all things.
Mystery Train is an excellent film, a masterpiece of the cinema, and Jarmusch's last great work. It is absolutely stunning and perfect, high art with a high entertainment value. Jarmusch's vision is fully realized and honed. It was Jarmusch's first major color film and he knew exactly what to do with it. Mystery Train effortlessly enthralls. It is art at its most absurd and rewarding. Mystery Train rocked my world and changed my life. The train that never stops...