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If you stopped through Memphis in 1959, you’d be pretty damn close to the musical capital of the world. Roy Orbison, Otis Redding, and some kid named Elvis were doing the best work of their lives within the span of roughly a decade, and mostly within the city limits. Fast-forward 50 years and most of it’s in ruins, with triple the bankruptcy rate of the rest of the country and only a dead man’s mansion to show for it all.

That’s where Mystery Train comes in. Jim Jarmusch’s 1989 triptych takes a deadpan look at the ghosts of Memphis, with a little help from Joe Strummer, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins (that’s him in the red suit) and a pair of Japanese hipsters. It’s a love letter to Elvis, sure, but also a clear-eyed look at what he left behind and what you’re likely to find on a pilgrimage to Graceland. And now that it’s got a Criterion edition, it should be getting the revival it deserves. Remember the King?

—R.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Russell Brandom