Sunday, November 30, 2014

Family Movie Night: Tampopo

Title: Tampopo
Director: Juzo Itami
Original Release: 1987
Choice: My Wife's
My Overall Rating: 5 stars out of 5
via Wikipedia
If there's one movie in the world I would encourage more people to watch, it is Tampopo.   If you're interested in food, Japan or westerns, you need to see it.  I know of no other film quite like it.  If you do, please let me know.

Truckers Goro and Gun stop at a ramen shop that's clearly struggling.  Tampopo, the widow proprietor, is not much of a cook, a local gang of toughs are harassing her and her son is being bullied.  Goro takes her under wing, sorting out the baddies and helping her learn the trade.  Parallels with Shane are obvious but the film goes so far beyond that.  It is a beautiful ode to the Japanese love affair with food.

Interspersed throughout the noodle shop story are other foodie vignettes: a young man upstages his superiors by expertly ordering a meal at a French restaurant, a woman rises from her death bed to cook one last meal for her family, a customer torments a grocery store clerk by over-handling the food and so on.  In my favorite vignette, a women's etiquette class is derailed by a foreigner who slurps his noodles against all intercultural expectations.  There is also a wacky subplot with a gangster in a white suit and his girlfriend.  He's the only character in the film who speaks to the camera.  Their story gets a bit risque with a food fetish scene.  By mutual consent, we covered the Purple Penguin's eyes for that one.

In my favorite part of the ramen story (I've got a lot of favorites in this movie), Goro brings Tampopo to meet the "old master," who lives among a group of gourmet vagrants in a city park.  As the master leaves to help with the shop, his friends - disciples, really - sing a farewell song in tribute to him.  A hobo men's chorus - it's really very sweet.

Seriously, watch this movie.  You'll thank me later.


My Rating System:

5 = The best of the best.  These are the films by which I judge other films.
4 = High quality films which I feel could hold up well in repeated viewings.
3 = The vast majority of films.  They're fine.  Once was enough.
2 = I wasn't even sure I wanted to finish it.  It's not a 1 because I'm not prepared to say it's a terrible film - just not my cup of tea.
1 = A terrible film.  An insult to the art form.


  1. I bow to "Master Squid" review of this wonderful movie.
    The only thing I would add is to watch this movie after a very good meal.
    The food fetish scene could have been cut for me.

    cheers, parsnip

    1. Agreed! In fact, I think I even said while we were watching that it's best watched after you've already eaten. It was the perfect movie for a weekend devoted to good food.

  2. You've talked me in to it. I love foreign films. Tell the wife I said "thank you", too!

    The whole foodie world is fascinating to me, plus - I love a person who is passionate about their interests. There's too much "lukewarm" in the world.

    1. You love foreign films? Cinema Paradiso is also very dear to me, though better known than this one.

  3. Sounds interesting. it's one of those films that will make me crave food!

  4. I've never heard of that movie. It sounds very strange.

  5. Sounds like the Japanese Christopher Guest movie!

    1. Interesting comparison. It's a little more elegant than Guest's films, not quite as blatantly farcical. However, if I were to entrust anyone to an Americanized remake, Guest and his gang would be my first choice. Mind you, American food culture is an entirely different animal...

  6. I saw it back when I was in college and don't remember much more than that I liked it. I suppose I should see it again.

  7. I love Japanese humor in movies and this film looks like a treat! Thanks for the heads up.

  8. I have never even heard of this movie, but it sounds like I need to find a copy to watch. Definitely sounds unique! Thanks for sharing. :)

  9. Thank you for sharing this 5 star movie. :) I haven't come across it before.

  10. Haven't heard of it before.

    I have a feeling it would frustrate me to not be able to eat the yummy food right out of the screen though? ;)