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Top Customer Reviews
But--and perhaps this is the secret of Itami's success both in Japan and elsewhere--the satire is done with a light, almost loving touch. Even though he also takes dead aim at spaghetti westerns and the Japanese love affair with food, especially their predilection for fast food noodle soup, at no time is there any rancor or ugliness in his treatment.
If you've seen any Itami film you will be familiar with his star, his widow, Nobuko Miyamoto, she of the very expressive face, who is perhaps best known for her role as the spirited tax collector in Itami's The Taxing Woman (1987) and The Taxing Woman Returns (1988). She has appeared in all of his films. Here she is Tampopo ("Dandelion"), a not entirely successful proprietor of a noodle restaurant. Along comes not Jones but Tsutmu Yamazaki as Goro, a kind of true grit, but big-hearted Japanese urban cowboy. He ambles up to the noodle bar and before long establishes himself as a kind of John Wayne hero intent on teaching Tampopo how the good stuff is made. Along the way Itami makes fun of stuffy bureaucrats, macho Japanese males, heroic death scenes, Japanese princesses attempting to acquire a European eating style, movie fight scenes, and God knows what else.Read more ›
As others have noted, the plot is definitely patterned after Italian Spaghetti Westerns--a handsome but weathered character (Goro) comes into town and spots a widowed mother in distress (Tampopo). With the help of his eccentric friends (including a band of culinary hobos that sing in exquisite harmony a farewell song whenever their leader leaves them for a time), Goro helps Tampopo turn her fortunes around by becoming a noodle soup master! I could definitely see John Wayne playing the part of Goro every time he adjusted the brim of his cowboy hat or the bandana around his neck.
In addition to the main story line of the winsome noodle shop owner, several unconnected episodes are included. What ties them all together seems to be the theme of enjoying and appreciating and living for food, from the story of the noodle master imparting his wisdom on the perfect noodle soup to the disciple, to the old woman who sneakily wanders through an upscale grocery store just to TOUCH food, to the charismatic gangster whose dying words to his lover are about the wonders of an esoteric food delicacy, the intestines of freshly killed boars who have dined on yams that make a natural yam sausage.
Sounds odd, I know, but the director has a warm, affectionate viewpoint that lets us enjoy the eccentricities of the characters while still feeling good about them. There is not the faintest trace of meanness or cynicism in this movie. Laugh out loud scenes make this one of the funniest movies I've seen in years, and the honesty and poignancy of the wonderful characters will make this movie live in my memory for many years.
Japanese culture is filled with a love of food. Japanese travel brochures are filled, not with pretty sights and adventures, but with photos of local delicacies and dishes. Food questing is a popular hobby, with each person knowing a local favorite shop, or a master chef. Restaurants also tend to specialize, often serving only one dish such as ramen or udon noodles. "Tampopo" perfectly captured this national obsession, creating a story that is undeniable Japanese. Goro and Tampopo's search for the perfect broth, the most delicious way to cut meat and such is an honest and charming portrayal.
There is plenty going on in this film, with the sexual subplot of the gangster and his lover exchanging food and sex, or the young executive fluent in French cuisine. Each vignette forwards the tone. Along with this is the marriage of the samurai and the cowboy in the character of Goro, and the delicate strength of Tampopo herself.
You really can't go wrong with this film.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is one of the best movies I've ever seen. It is like a series of essays about what food means to different kinds of Japanese people. Read morePublished 27 days ago by JRC
In my top 20 movies. A Japanese spaghetti western. Hilarious but you also become enchanted with the heroine to say nothing about wanting a bowl of ramen while watching.Published 2 months ago by R A Jolsvay
One of my favorite food movie, a movie within a movie, cleverly done.Published 3 months ago by Albert Christensen
A remarkable, hilarious roller coaster ride through Tokyo circa 1985.Published 3 months ago by Robert Bove
This is an older movie which I first saw as a young adult. Going back and watching it was just as much fun, and just as inspiring on a culinary basis. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Allyson Szabo