Jarmusch takes the famed musical locale of Memphis and its favourite son, Elvis, as the launching point for three separate stories which converge on a dilapidated hotel run by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and his trusty bell hop, Cinquè Lee. Featuring an inspired cast including Tom Waits, Joe Strummer and Steve Buscemi, Mystery Train affirms Jarmusch's talent for the absurd and the undeniably hip.
As in his previous features, Stranger than Paradise and Down By Law, many of the characters in Mystery Train’s narrative triptych offer an outsider view of America's beloved cultural iconography. In 'Far From Yokohama', a rock 'n roll-obsessed couple (Masatoshi Nagase, Youki Kudoh) travel to Memphis to sight-see and argue over who the genuine father of rock ‘n roll is. In 'A Ghost' an Italian widow (Nicoletta Braschi) on her way back to Rome encounters the spirit of young Elvis. 'Lost in Space' finds a barber (Steve Buscemi) and his British brother-in-law (the eternally cool Joe Strummer) on the sauce and on the run!
Set in Memphis over one night, Mystery Train comprises three separate tales threaded together by geography and subtle shifts in time. Jarmusch explains, “It was fun to write something where you could see a character that you don’t know is going to appear later and a main character. It was a little bit like a puzzle, not a real complicated one, but it was fun trying to make the pieces fit together while writing the thing down”.