This is one of those quirky movies that it seems only the Japanese can make. The film publicity calls it the first ramen western, riffing on the term spaghetti western, and is true to that for if you watch there are many western tropes, from the hat the 'hero' wears to the atmosphere, and, most amusingly, the last scene.
The main story is how a truck driving drifter and his buddy (Ken Watanabe in an early role), for reasons never really explained, become involved with the widowed proprietress of a noodle shop, a really bad noodle shop. This principal story is essentially a Cinderella story and is sweet to watch.
There are several vignettes along the way that have nothing to do with the principal story, all one-shot episodes 3-5 minutes but all focused somehow on food. There is one repeating vignette starring Koji Yakusho, who is described as an elegant gangster in a white suit and hat. He is most often with his girlfriend, the episodes are almost pornographic (so young children may need thier eyes covered, <snicker>) yet they also are moving in their way.
The actors are fun to watch, not only for the generally good acting but also because of who they are; Ken Watanabe, Koji Yakusho, Nobuko Miyamoto, Tsutomu Yamazaki, Toshiya Fujita - think Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson, a young Brad Pitt, Martin Scorsese, Robert DeNiro all doing a low budget film basically for the hell of it.
The movie is a paen to food and to eating. It's funny, heart warming and occasionally tear-inducing. Just remember when watching that these people are not American and that as such they don't have American sensibilities and reactions. But this is well worth watching.
I saw this film in 1987 on cable and thoroughly enjoyed it. I wore out my VHS copy and jumped on the DVD when I finally found it online. Not many pressings as it was only appreciated by a few. I was hoping for Blu-ray but didn't think it would ever happen given the small following. Criterion has come through with an excellent DVD to Blu-ray transfer, as they do with all in their collection. The film is Itami Juzo's masterpiece. What really makes this worthwhile is Criterion's new addition of some supplements, the best being The Making of Tampopo narrated by the director. Its a nice snapshot into the mindset of a master at work. Sadly, he's not with us anymore.
The other supplements will give you an idea of why real ramen is a national obsession. I've been to Japan many, many times (10) and trying out the different shops is always a priority of any trip. Thousands, and there is even a ramen museum that re-creates post war Tokyo backstreets with different shops from all over Japan. You will never view those crappy, cheap instant noodles as ramen ever again.
Thank you Criterion. Now if you could just transfer all of Itami-san's other films.....
I have watched this movie five times and i am not tired of it yet. Hilarious. Tank truck driver rides in and saves the woman noodle shop owner. That would be enough but there are several side stories of equal heart felt humor. A classic. I make my friends watch it and they thank me. Nakamura, I love you. Make more.
Tampopo is one of my very favorite movies, and this wonderful Criterion blu-ray release finally does it justice. I love everything about this release, and can't recommend it highly enough. If you love Tampopo, you are apt to really enjoy this blu-ray. Its extras include a 90-minute "Making Of" that is highly interesting, a 22-minute short on Tampopo's influence on food culture, and more.
Movie arrived in good condition. As to the art of it, I can't imagine a more charming, precise, and entertaining movie about Japanese cuisine and Japan's love affair with food. The main character is the John Wayne of soup.
This is one of the funniest movies ever made. It's a western... set in Tokyo... about noodles. For real. It's hilarious. (Not for children - there's a fairly graphic sex scene in the middle of the movie. Be aware.)
I first saw this movie back when it was released in the 80's, and always wanted to own it. The DVD picture and sound are both nice and clear, and the movie itself did not lose its appeal over time. There are definitely some differences in the storytelling compared to an American movie, but the glimpse into Japanese culture is fascinating, and the acting is very engaging. Definitely re-watchable.