Strange Journey

Jarmusch, Buscemi and Strummer veer off the beaten tracks with Elvis

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An episodic, typically eccentric Jim Jarmusch film from 1989, loosely focusing on Elvis-mania, with an ensemble cast including Steve Buscemi, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and Joe Strummer. There are three chief strands, juggled with customary minimalism by the auteur. A hymn to Memphis and its music, it hangs out coolly with two Presley fanatics, a woman who sees Elvis’ ghost, and at least one would-be lookalike.

As this was the first American production to be independently financed by a Japanese corporate (JVC), it’s understandable that Jarmusch seems preoccupied with how America looks to Japanese eyes, though the first tale, starring two bewildered Japanese teenagers, is the least gripping. The third, as Brit-punk Strummer goes drinking with Buscemi and shoots a liquor-store worker before inadvertently getting his new buddy wounded too, is mesmeric. Not because Strummer was a great actor (be honest, he wasn’t) but because Jarmusch is at his most languidly inspired.

Worth the journey.

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