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Tampopo (1985)

1985 - film - food - Japan - Japananese cinema - Juzo Itami

Tampopo (1985) - Juzo Itami [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Tampopo (1985) - Juzo Itami

Tampopo is a 1985 Japanese comedy film by director Itami Juzo, starring Yamazaki Tsutomu, Miyamoto Nobuko and Watanabe Ken. The publicity for the film calls it "the first 'noodle western,'" a play on the "Spaghetti Westerns"--Western films made in Italy.

Plot summary
Tampopo begins when two truck drivers, one young and one experienced, happen onto a decrepit roadside fast food stop selling ramen. The business is not doing too well, and after getting involved in a fight, the heroes decide to help the young lady owner Tampopo to turn her establishment into a paragon of the "art of noodle soup making".

The main narrative is interspersed with stories involving consumables ("food porn") on several levels. The primary B story involves a white-suited yakuza (Yakusho Koji) and his mistress (Kuroda Fukumi) who, among other things, check into a hotel and do PG things with crawfish that one would just have to see. Other sideplots include an office intern who shows up his senior colleagues by ordering well at a French restaurant, a housewife who rises from her deathbed to cook one last meal for her family, and a women's class who learn to eat spaghetti the gaijin way.

The camerawork and filmic techniques were sophisticated for the time. Some of the story strands transition on the fly, and some of the characters address the audience directly or ham it up deliberately.

The main storyline has been compared by some to that of the Western movie Shane, and also to the movie Seven Samurai and the Western based on it, The Magnificent Seven.

While many ramen restaurants in Japan state in their description they are the one motivated from the shop in the story, few have been able to figure out which, if any, is correct.

As a tutorial towards the preparation and appreciation of ramen in general it is a recommended movie. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tampopo [Mar 2005]

Amazon.com review
Like seeds of a dandelion blowing in the wind, the plot of Tampopo wanders in several directions, following the lives of a quirky collection of characters. At the heart of this film is a young widow named Tampopo (Nobuko Miyamoto), who is struggling to make ends meet by running a noodle restaurant. Goro (Tsutomu Yamazaki), a truck driver, saves Tampopo's young son from being beaten by a group of school girls and is rewarded with a bowl of very bad ramen (noodles). Goro tells Tampopo the awful truth about her cooking and she asks for his help. Together they search for the perfect ramen recipe.

Intersecting this part of the plot are several smaller and less well-realized stories. Koji Yakusho, who stars in Shall We Dance, appears as a sensuous gangster who would rather play with his food than eat it. Then there's the mysterious Noodle Master who lives with a group of street vagabonds and a young executive who knows how to order food from a French menu, but not how to preserve the dignity of his superiors.

While the film as a whole feels somewhat disjointed, writer-director Juzo Itami manages to infuse Tampopo (which means "dandelion") with a sense of Japanese joie de vivre that is worth experiencing. Take notes during the "soup scenes" and see what you can cook up for yourself. -- Luanne Brown for amazon.com

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