In this very funny film, good food is connected to birth, death, sex, work, and pleasure in a mouth-watering way.
The movie is presented in a series of vignettes with a framing sequence and a running story. It begins in a cinema where a yakuza in a white suit is sitting with his moll, a sumptuous repast in front of them. He says that a movie plays when one is dying and he wants to see that movie. This character is our main link between food and sex (with a memorable scene of food foreplay coming up) and food and death and will reappear several times with his girlfriend. The film ends with a beautiful shot of an infant breastfeeding to make the circle complete.
The main story concerns the widow Tampopo (Nobuko Miyamoto) who is trying to make a go of her late husband’s ramen restaurant. Goro (Tsutomo Nagazaki), a truckdriver, and his buddy come in to get out of the rain. After defending Tampopo from a drunken admirer, they tell her that her noodles aren’t very good and why. She begs them to help her and they do. The three scour the city in search of the very best ramen to emulate, leading to some comical encounters with rival restaurant owners.
In the meantime, there are some hilarious short scenes showing all kinds of people from a salary man to a dying mother preparing and enjoying food. I like the one in the photo below where this lady gets pornographic pleasure from sneaking around a gourmet store and fondling the produce. I also like the gourmet salary man, the noodle instruction scene, and well everything about this movie.
After some very hard work, Tampopo is ready to launch her new line of ramen. She has perfected her craft. The only thing missing to make this a Western would be the son shouting “Come back, Goro!” at the end.
This may be the most mouth-watering movie ever made. You can almost smell the delicious aromas wafting through the screen. Equally, though, it is about Tampopo’s quest for excellence. I always leave it feeling as inspired as I do hungry. Highly recommended.
Japanese trailer – worth watching!