Friday, April 27, 2018
Written and directed by Juzo Itami, Tampopo (Dandelion) is the story of a group of men who help a widowed noodle shop owner in creating the perfect recipe for ramen noodles. The film is an exploration of food and the joys it bring to people where a woman tries to revive her noodle shop in the hope that it can make the world a better place no matter how small it can be. Starring Tsutomu Yamazaki, Nobuko Miyamoto, Koji Yakusho, Ken Watanabe, and Riya Yasuoka. Tampopo is an extraordinarily rich film from Juzo Itami.
The film revolves a group of men who encounter a widowed noodle shop owner as she’s struggling with her business as they decide to help her in reinventing her shop as well as create the perfect recipe for ramen noodles. It’s a film with a simple premise that would also include various subplots relating to people’s love for food and the joy it can bring to someone. Juzo Itami’s screenplay opens with a trucker named Goro (Tsutomu Yamazaki) and his sidekick Gun (Ken Watanabe) driving towards Tokyo as the latter is reading a book about ramen as they’re both suddenly hungry as they stop at a noodle shop for food. There, they meet its titular owner (Nobuko Miyamoto) who is dealing with the loss of her husband as well as an adolescent son who is first seen beaten up by schoolmates until Goro saved the boy. After getting to know Tampopo, Goro would offer to help her out in creating the best ramen noodle recipe as well as get her shop to become the best.
Throughout the course of the main narrative, Tampopo would venture into nearby noodle shops to see how some of the chefs create their own ramen noodles as she gets the support of an old master (Yoshi Kato) in helping her getting the broth right while a chauffeur named Shohei (Kinzo Sakura) would also help after Tampopo saved his boss from choking on his food. Another person who would help Tampopo is a patron in Pisuken (Riya Yasuoka) who had eaten at her place and sees that she wants to improve everything with her restaurant. This in turn would bring a sense of confidence in Tampopo who would continually refine her craft in creating the perfect ramen noodle as there are various subplots as it relate to the joy of food. One of which involves a man in a white suit (Koji Yasuoka) who finds joy with his girlfriend (Fukumi Kuroda) in eating food erotically as other subplots involve a man’s visit to the dentist, a lowly executive with a vast knowledge for French cuisine, and a woman teaching other women how to eat spaghetti without making any noise.
Itami’s direction is simple in terms of its visuals and for the fact that it satirizes elements of American cinema where it would play into a few genres in some scenes while it opens in an offbeat way in which the man in the white suit and his girlfriend talk to the screen about not eating noisy food during the movie as they’re about to watch a movie. It’s among the offbeat moments in the film that include the man in the white suit and his girlfriend having sex while eating food in a comical manner. Shot largely in Tokyo and areas nearby the city, it is largely set in this rural area where there are these noodle shops where Itami would use a few wide shots to establish the locations as well as play with some of the visuals such as the film’s opening sequence with a wide shot of the entire movie theater. Much of Itami’s direction revolve around intimate compositions such as medium shots and close-ups to get a look of the ramen bowl and the attention to detail in what’s in a ramen noodle soup. The way a broth is made and perfected is shown as Itami would follow Tampopo as she would learn to perfect that broth as there are also a few comical moments including this one scene where Tampopo’s son watches a homeless man break into a kitchen to make an omelet.
Itami’s direction also provide a sense of the kind of joy that food brings such as the story of the man who goes to the dentist, a market owner dealing with a customer with an obsession for touching food, an ailing woman making dinner for her family, and a scam involving a professor and a con man. It all revolves around food as Itami show what it can do as the scene where a rich socialite tries to educate other women how to eat spaghetti is funny for the fact that there’s a man slurping on the spaghetti. Much of Itami’s approach to shots don’t revolve around style while he knows how to create these lively moments such as the climax as it relates to Tampopo’s ramen noodle soup and the impact it would bring into the men that helped her. Overall, Itami crafts a majestic and exhilarating film about a group of men helping a widow in creating the perfect ramen noodle shop.
Cinematographer Masaki Tamura does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography as it play into the natural lighting for the scenes in the day including the shots inside Tampopo’s shop as well as the scenes at night and how the ramen noodle soups are lit in its natural lighting. Editor Akira Suzuki does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some stylish cuts to play into the film’s humor including a fight scene involving Goro and Pisuken. Art director Takeo Kimura and set decorator Toshiharu Ochi do amazing work with the look of Tampopo’s restaurant in how drab and ordinary it looks in comparison to the other restaurants as well as the growing change it would have during the film’s evolution.
Costume designer Emiko Kogo does nice work with the costumes from the casual look of the people in Tampopo’s restaurant including the cowboy hat that Goro wears to some of the clothes of the characters in the film’s various subplots. The sound work of Kyoji Kono is superb for its natural sound in the way the slurping of noodles sound as well as some of the film’s comical sound effects and scenes that play into the atmosphere of the areas outside of Tokyo. The film’s music by Kunihiko Murai is incredible for its mixture of jazz and electronic music as it play into the film’s humor as well as some of the quieter moments as it is a highlight of the film.
The casting by Shigeru Sakurada and Kosaburo Sasaoka is wonderful as it feature some notable small roles and appearances from Toshiya Fujita as a man who visits the dentist, Ryutaro Otomo as a ramen master who unknowingly tells Tampopo his approach to making broth, Yoriko Doguchi as a pearl diver that the man in the white suit meets, Masahiko Tsugawa as a supermarket manager, Mariko Okada as a socialite trying to teach women how to eat spaghetti properly, Setsuko Shinoi as a mistress for an old man, Hidej Otaki as a rich old man whose life is saved by Tampopo as he would loan her his chauffeur to help her create the perfect ramen noodle soup, Fukumi Kuroda as the man in the white suit’s girlfriend, and Koji Yakusho in a superb role as the man in the white suit. Yoshi Kato is terrific as the old man who is a master in making noodles as he spends time with the homeless who favor the joy of food rather than what is trendy as he aids Tampopo in teaching her how to made noodles taste good.
Kinzo Sakura is fantastic as the rich old man’s chauffeur Shohei who is good at making noodles as he offers to help Tampopo out as they also go noodle tasting to find the right texture and depth to the noodles. Riya Yasuoka is brilliant as Pisuken as a drunkard who was a customer of Tampopo that decided to help out as he learned what she’s doing as a way to make amends with her. Ken Watanabe is amazing as Gun as Goro’s sidekick who help Tampopo out as he is interested in the idea of the perfect ramen noodle due to a book he reads. Tsutomu Yamazaki is incredible as Goro as a truck driver who arrives at Tampopo’s noodle shop where he sees a woman that is in need to do better as he helps her while dealing with his own feelings for her. Finally, there’s Nobuko Miyamoto in a phenomenal performance as the titular character who is dealing with loss as well as uncertainty as she would be determined to create the perfect ramen noodle recipe as well as revive her noodle shop as it’s a charming and delightful performance from Miyamoto.
Tampopo is a tremendous film from Juzo Itami. Featuring a great cast, beautiful images, a soothing music score, delightful humor, and food that looks so good to eat. It’s a film that plays into the joy of food and what it can do to everyone who makes it as well as eat it all just to ensure the idea of what food can do for someone. In the end, Tampopo is a spectacular film from Juzo Itami.
Juzo Itami Films: (The Funeral (1984 film)) – (A Taxing Woman) – (A Taxing Woman’s Return) – (Tales of a Golden Geisha) – (Minbo) – (Daibyonin) – (Supermarket Woman)
© thevoid99 2018
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Wait. There's a movie about ramen noodles? How did I not know this. Sounds pretty cool. And any movie with Ken Watanabe can't be all bad.
That's the thing about film. You never know what a film could tell as I heard about this film a few years ago. It was on Turner Classic Movies recently as I wanted to watch it and it made me hungry. Plus, it has a young Ken Watanabe who is great in this as how can you not love Ken Watanabe?
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