One of my all time favorite food movies is Tampopo (In English, Dandelion) a Japanese comedy directed by Juzo Itami and released in 1985 with English Subtitles. The first time I saw this movie was in a small art theatre in Upstate New York. The movie opens with a shot looking directly into a small movie theatre from the screen’s point of view. What made this whole opening even funnier was the fact that this was almost a mirror of the small theatre I was sitting in but with Japanese moviegoers instead of Western ones. I won’t give away the opening of the film because you have to watch the opening with an unbiased mind.
Tampopo has been called the first Noodle Western which aptly describes this movie. The combination of food related showdowns mixed with spaghetti western drama is truly a joy to behold. This is not a movie for children because there are some somewhat outrageous r-rated scenes in the movie, but all in the context of having something to do with food and eating.
What I love about this movie is that while there is one main story line involving Tampopo, the would be Noodle Chef, and many mini sub-stories within the movie, Itami seamlessly follows the characters from mini-drama to Keystone Cop slapstick without interruption.
For example, the camera follows Tampopo on her bicycle being trained by Goro (a truck driver who ends up in her little noodle shop one night) to become the Noodle Queen. As Tampopo rides her bike in circles around Goro, the camera cuts to a group of Japanese businessmen walking by and then proceeds to follow them. The underling office intern then proceeds to show up his senior associates by ordering in French at the restaurant where they chose to have their meeting.
Each character and story has some interaction with one another and then the camera moves on to follow this new character and their mini-story. A few of these mini-stories are a little on the bizarre side but all concern food in one form or another. An example is a housewife who rises from being at death’s door to cook one last meal for her family. The little old Japanese lady in the all night superette squeezing finger holes in the cheese and then being chased by the night manager with a fly swatter always makes me smile.
I have lost count how many times I have watched this movie and every time I watch it again, I smile and catch something I missed before. I highly recommend this movie for people who love food because this is definitely a food movie.
Read a review of the movie at:
Chef Forfeng rating – 5 Gherkins