One to Watch: Tampopo
Have you ever wished you could smell or taste the food that you see on screen? If you have, here’s a heads-up: you might find our recommendation this week a tough one to sit through on an empty stomach…
Directed by Juzo Itami, Tampopo is a jubilant and ridiculous tribute to the wonders of Japanese cuisine. The story begins with vagabonds Goro (Tsutomu Yamazaki, channelling Clint Eastwood) and Gun (a fresh-faced Ken Watanabe) happening upon a humble ramen restaurant in which the noodles and broth on offer simply aren’t that impressive. After getting knocked out in a scrap with a group of unruly customers, Goro is nursed back to health by the shop’s owner, Tampopo (Nobuko Miyamoto), who has but one request: that he teach her how to make the ultimate bowl of ramen.
The whole film is rich with scenes celebrating the sights, sounds and textures of food
Their journey – featuring cook-offs, espionage and, of course, a kitchen training montage – is also supplemented by a series of vignettes celebrating the simple yet momentous decision to give into our appetites. In one of these, the participants of an etiquette class try their best to eat spaghetti quietly while a nearby customer slurps gleefully, and another sees an elderly woman sneaking around a supermarket and firmly squeezing all of the produce to no end other than her own satisfaction.
The whole film is rich with scenes celebrating the sights, sounds and textures of food, and while it’s steeped in Japanese culinary tradition, it taps into the universal human experience of indulging in our favourite dishes, whatever they might be. Stylised and self-aware, it’s a laugh a minute with one major caveat: you might want to have your nearest Japanese takeaway on speed-dial.