Mystery Train

Jim Jarmusch’s fourth feature gives us three separate stories occurring over the same day in a sleazy section of Memphis: “Far From Yokohama,” about the visit of a young Japanese couple (Youki Kudoh and Masatoshi Nagase) to the shrines of their demigods, Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins respectively; “A Ghost,” about an Italian woman (Nicoletta Braschi) whose husband has just died on their honeymoon, who shares a hotel room with an American woman (Elizabeth Bracco) who has just left her English boyfriend, and who glimpses the ghost of Elvis himself; and “Lost in Space,” about the grief of the English boyfriend (Joe Strummer) alluded to in part two, who hangs out with two buddies (Rick Aviles and Steve Buscemi) and shoots a clerk in a liquor store. All three stories gravitate toward the same locations, including a rundown hotel presided over by night clerk Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and bellboy Cinque Lee, and Jarmusch gets a lot of mileage out of the formal satisfactions to be found as the three separate stories periodically pass over the same places and moments in time. There’s also some thoughtful work in the selective color of Robby Muller’s cinematography, and a great deal of the wit, poetry, and sensitivity to character that made Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise and Down by Law so appealing. The lack of familiarity with Memphis makes too many of the secondary characters and gags register like New York transplants, and the third episode suffers from a lack of imagination and depth (the characters and situations both seem borrowed)–serious problems for a minimalist master whose smallest moves count–but the charm of Kudoh, Nagase, and Braschi helps to compensate for the fact that they’re partially replaying certain notions about foreigners in the U.S. that we already got in Jarmusch’s last two movies. In short, this is far from a total success, but certainly worth a look. (Fine Arts)

Published on 26 Jan 1990 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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Inner Space [SOLARIS]

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Published on 12 Jan 1990 in Featured Texts, Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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TV Films by Alexander Kluge

American TV watchers, eat your hearts out! These four selections from “Ten to Eleven”–a series of short, experimental “essay” films made for German television by the remarkable German filmmaker Alexander Kluge, to be shown here on video–are not always easy to follow in terms of tracing all their connections, but they’re the liveliest and most imaginative European TV shows I’ve seen since those of Ruiz and Godard. Densely constructed out of a very diverse selection of archival materials, which are manipulated (electronically and otherwise) in a number of unexpected ways, these historical meditations often suggest Max Ernst collages using the cultural flotsam of the last 100 years. Why Are You Crying, Antonio? relates fascism, opera, and domesticity; Articles of Advertising historicizes ads in a number of novel ways; Madame Butterfly Waits offers a compressed history of opera and its kitschy successors in pop culture; and the self-explanatory The Eiffel Tower, King Kong, and the White Woman makes use of comics, movies in the 1890s, a quote from Heidegger, and multiple images of the famous ape and tower. These are apparently fairly recent films. A Chicago premiere. (Randolph St. Gallery, 756 N. Milwaukee, Friday and Saturday, January 12 and 13, 8:00, 666-7737)

Published on 12 Jan 1990 in Featured Texts, by jrosenbaum

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