MovieChat Forums > Mystery TrainĀ (1989) Discussion > Can a filmmaker actually capture the spi...

Can a filmmaker actually capture the spirit of a city in 90 minutes?


Jarmusch can. This film somehow manages to capture the existential weirdness one feels in Memphis...as a visitor. At the same time you feel like the place is dull as hell, you're also feeling like you're experiencing something magical and bizarre. What a city. What a beautiful little film.

Intellectual passion drives out sensuality

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[deleted]

memphis at the time of this filming was a city in horrible urban decay, and although the film only moves through a couple sections of the city and conveys the decay (although i think that his lense for americana itself), jarmusch gets the magic of a city that is in decline, departed from its own history and off the map of importance, yet has an identity and substance,

outside of jarmusch fans and people in touch with memphis modern film history (which is not extensive, jarmusch making this film is credited by some as starting a renewal in downtown memphis itself) people in memphis are not that familiar with the film

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He can and did capture the spirit of Memphis very well by me. The bells that might come from St. Patrick's, the run-down hotel, the predators outside the Arcade Diner (where Elvis used to eat), the remnants of the Lamar move theater, the Sun Studios tour--it's all pitch-perfect, and just as I remember Memphis in 1989 and for much of the 90s.

I feel that the recent downtown "revival" killed the unique spirit of my city. If Memphis as Jarmusch pictured it was a portrait of urban decay, well, gimme the decay any day. It's "safer" now, but boring, ye gods, how boring. (I put quotes around safer becasue I don't believe the crime rate has really adjusted itself one way or the other to the recent plastic gentrification of downtown.)

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I was just there and the urban decay is still very much present, especially around the National Civil Rights Museum. The area around the Arcade diner is very artsy and developed, lots of galleries and such but the city still has a lot of rundown areas.

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Most American cities are going this way. The downtowns get yuppified, and the poor people get pushed into an even smaller ghetto/tenement area.

Whats a mook?

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The original poster for this board states:

"Jarmusch can. This film somehow manages to capture the existential
weirdness one feels in Memphis...as a visitor. At the same time you feel
like the place is dull as hell, you're also feeling like you're
experiencing something magical and bizarre. What a city. What a beautiful
little film."

I don't think I have read a more accurate description of this film's mood ever. Yes, while watching the film, works like existential, magical, and bizarre constantly came to mind. It has a certain energy that is essentially all its own. I would say that this is probably my favorite Jarmusch film. Night On Earth also captures an intriguing, lonesome mood, but this one does it better.

Broken Flowers is also a brilliant, strangely haunting film, but this one is still the best.

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The Civil Rights Museum is what, three blocks from the Arcade? Just goes to show you how "revitalization" can pick and choose.


To achieve harmony in bad taste is the height of elegance.--Jean Genet

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I'd agree with you it's probably his best movie, I guess he really managed to capture the gorgeous heart of memphis with those stories. Night on Earth is a close second best, though.

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Night On Earth is my second favorite too.

To achieve harmony in bad taste is the height of elegance.--Jean Genet

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I think the city looks beautiful in the film. Living in southern california the crushingly soulless suburbia here is extremely oppressive. I just hope all the chain stores won't ruin the character of Memphis just like we seen in the movie.

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Living in southern california the crushingly soulless suburbia here is extremely oppressive.

I think that's how suburbia is almost everywhere though, even Memphis. Characterless McMansions are an epidemic.

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I've never been to Memphis, but for as much as I can say as spectator via the medium of cinema, I agree completely with the original poster. The atmospheric handling of the setting is definitely one of the most striking aspects of the film, and as another poster suggested (I think this was the general vibe, it was a while ago I read it, apologies if I'm inaccurate), seems to bring more specifically to the location than what Night On Earth did for its location. Having said that, I think I preferred the human aspect of the latter, but in terms of making a city rich with feeling, Mystery Train is pretty much unrivalled within the Jarmusch films I've seen. It adds a whole world the to opinion that Michael Mann knows how to shoot LA. Word to all of yourselves (god I'm in a good mood).

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I agree with dianying. I'm from arkansas and I wasn't alive yet in 1989, but I live in Memphis now and it's way different. Growing up I always saw Memphis as a bigger version of my native Little Rock, and I can see that's very true in many ways. LR was in complete decay in the early 90's but after Clinton was elected the downtown area started improving. When his presidential library was built, the entire area was completely sanitized. Most of Memphis looks alot like that now, like any other big city in the south (trolleys, pedestrian streets etc.) What's really funny to me is that fans of the film making pilgrimages to Memphis will encounter a vastly different city, just like the two Japanese tourists.

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i never went to Memphis, but i really felt he captured the spirit of the city!

i mean not only from Memphis, he captured the spirit and feeling of being a visitor in a city you never went before. not a "typical tourist" but that feeling of observation and discovering a new place, that will enter and mark your memory as soon as you leave the city.

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I've never visited Memphis. I live in South Dakota, in a good sized city. I have to say that movie did capture that summer feeling when you walk around at night.

John Lurie's music fits is so amazing, really captures a hot night in July as you walk under streetlights.

I don't think the amazing feeling to Mystery Train applies to just Memphis, but pretty much any town.

I'm from Paris... TEXAS

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Actually it took him 110 minutes to accomplish the task.



"facts are stupid things" Ronald Reagan

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