Most of you may perhaps be familiar with the film sub-genre “Spaghetti Western”. Well, I call the film Tampopo by Jozu Itami a “Ramen Western”, that stands bright and unique in the firmament of filmdom. From the exaggeratedly complex depths of the humble ramen to the orgasmic heights of hedonism that food and sex can take you, Tampopo is extremely satisfying. It is one heck of a fantastic and joyful food trip, which includes dizzying detours which sometimes leave you flummoxed but most of the time give you a refreshing break (sort-of like a palate cleanser) from the main course, that you will never want to get off once you get on! As “the master” said, you will appreciate its gestalt.
The characters are distinct and memorable, expertly delineated and endearing — from the delicate but dedicated Tampopo herself and craggy-faced, cowboy-hat-wearing Goro to the white-suited Yakuza gangster to the hobos with surprisingly well-educated and fine-tuned palates. The vision, though complex to the point of labyrinthine, is clear and forceful. Written, directed, and produced by the amazing Jozu Itami, it is a sumptuous cinematic feast that only an extraordinary non-linear mind and brilliant story-telling genius like his can concoct. You will not be able to help yourself. Right from the start, from the very first scene, you will be inextricably drawn to the characters. And you will find yourself inhabiting the many stories that Itami lays before you. What a banquet for the senses! And Tampopo is gratifying to the very last drop … or, I should say, to the very last scene as the credits rise. (You must watch the film to know just what I mean.) When you see even just this one film of his, you will understand why Juzo Itami is one of my all-time favorite directors.
The best review of Tampopo that I have ever read was written by Hal Hinson of the Washington Post, way back in 1987 just after the film was launched in Hollywood — http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/style/longterm/movies/videos/tampoponrhinson_a0c94d.htm. Here is an excerpt: “Jozu Itami, the director of the Japanese film “Tampopo”, may be the most impenitent hedonist the movies have ever seen. As a filmmaker, he revels in sensual pleasure, and the spirit of his film is exultant, orgiastic. The movie has been described elsewhere as “Zen and the Art of Noodle-making”, but its spirit couldn’t be less Zen-like. Itami isn’t interested in detachment. He’s a zesty, immoderate connoisseur of pleasure-taking in all its forms — food, sex, movies — and he jumbles them all together here into a hilarious concoction. It’s half movie, half dessert-topping, a film gourmand’s lusty dream…”
Click on the link, if you want to read more about it. But I suggest you watch the film first so as not to spoil the scrumptious surprises it serves up. And be prepared to be overcome by a sudden craving for a steaming-hot bowl of Japanese ramen, after watching it. I was … each and EVERY time I watch it! This is a film classic that all true food-enthusiasts MUST SEE at least once in their lifetimes. It is simply oishii in every way!