Tampopo

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This article is about a Japanese film. For the J-pop group, see Tanpopo.
Tampopo
Tampopo cover.jpg
Pamphlet cover
Directed by Juzo Itami
Produced by Seigo Hosogoe
Juzo Itami
Yasushi Tamaoki
Written by Juzo Itami
Starring Tsutomu Yamazaki
Nobuko Miyamoto
Ken Watanabe
Kōji Yakusho
Music by Kunihiko Murai
Cinematography Masaki Tamura
Edited by Akira Suzuki
Production
  company
Itami Productions
Distributed by Toho
Release date(s) November 23, 1985
Running time 115 minutes
Country Japan
Language Japanese

Tampopo (タンポポ Tanpopo?, literally "dandelion") is a 1985 Japanese comedy film by director Juzo Itami, starring Tsutomu Yamazaki, Nobuko Miyamoto, Kōji Yakusho and Ken Watanabe. The publicity for the film calls it the first ramen western, a play on the term Spaghetti Western (films about the American Old West made by Italian production studios).

Plot[edit]

A pair of truck drivers, the experienced Gorō (Tsutomu Yamazaki) and a younger sidekick named Gun (Ken Watanabe), stop at a decrepit roadside ramen (noodle) shop. Outside, Gorō rescues a boy who is being beaten up by three schoolmates. The boy, Tabo, turns out to be the son of the widowed owner of the struggling business, Tampopo (Nobuko Miyamoto). When a customer called Pisken (Rikiya Yasuoka) harasses Tampopo, Gorō invites him and his men to step outside. Gorō puts up a good fight, but outnumbered by Pisken and his men, he is knocked out and wakes up the next morning in Tampopo's home.

When Tampopo asks their opinion of her noodles, Gorō and Gun tell her they are not very good. After Gorō gives her some advice, she asks him to become her teacher. They decide to turn her establishment into a paragon of the "art of noodle soup making". Gorō takes her around and points out the strengths and weaknesses of her competitors. She still cannot get the broth just right, so Gorō brings in the "old master" (Yoshi Katō) and his superlative expertise. When they rescue a wealthy elderly man from choking on his food, he lends her his chauffeur Shohei, who has a masterful way with noodles. They also steal the best recipes from their competitors. During the transition, the group agrees to have the restaurant's name changed from Lai Lai to "Tampopo".

Pisken feels bad for being too drunk to tell his men to stay out of the fight, so he offers Gorō another chance one on one. After the rematch ends in a draw, Pisken reveals he is a contractor, and offers to make over the shop's interior. Tampopo's latest effort still comes up short, so Pisken teaches her his own secret recipe. When the five men consume her latest creation down to the last drop, Tampopo knows she has won. (Tabo also triumphs, beating all three of his tormentors). As customers fill her newly redecorated shop, the men file out one by one.

The main narrative is interspersed with stories involving food on several levels. Satirical vignettes involve a lowly worker who upstages his superiors by displaying his vast culinary knowledge while ordering at a gourmet French restaurant; a housewife who rises from her deathbed to cook one last meal for her family; and a women's etiquette class on how to eat spaghetti properly. Another subplot involves a corner store clerk who has to deal with an older woman (Sen Hara) obsessed with squeezing food. The clerk's scene segues into a restaurant involving an investment scam and the intended victim, who turns out to be a conman himself.

The primary subplot involves a young man in a white suit (Kōji Yakusho) – an elegant gangster – and his lover (Fukumi Kuroda), who find erotically inventive ways to use food. In the end, the man is shot several times by an unknown assailant, to his lover's horror, but uses his last words to convey his secret recipe for sausages.

Cast[edit]

Reception[edit]

Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars, commenting that "Like the French comedies of Jacques Tati, it's a bemused meditation on human nature in which one humorous situation flows into another offhandedly, as if life were a series of smiles."[2]

Hal Hinson of The Washington Post wrote, "The movie, which Itami calls a 'noodle western,' is a rambunctious mixture of the bawdy and the sublime."[3] "'Tampopo' is perhaps the funniest movie about the connection between food and sex ever made."[3]

Vincent Canby provided a somewhat dissenting, though still positive, opinion in his New York Times review, stating, "Though it's not consistently funny ... 'Tampopo' is one of the more engaging films to be shown in this year's [New Directors/New Films] series."[4] "Mr. Itami often strains after comic effects that remain elusive. The most appealing thing about 'Tampopo' is that he never stops trying."[4]

Tampopo has received unanimous praise from critics, with a 100% approval rating from Rotten Tomatoes, based on 12 reviews.[5]

Legacy[edit]

The 2006 American/Japanese movie The Ramen Girl, in which a girl played by Brittany Murphy learns how to make ramen, contains many references to 'Tampopo', including a cameo by Tsutomu Yamazaki.

A number of ramen restaurants around the world are named Tampopo.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Tampopo". Retrieved 15 February 2013. 
  2. ^ Ebert, Roger (1987-09-11). "Tampopo Review". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2012-08-23. 
  3. ^ a b Hal Hinson (June 17, 1987). "'Tampopo' (NR)". The Washington Post. 
  4. ^ a b Vincent Canby (March 26, 1987). "New Directors/New Films; 'Tampopo,' A Comedy from Japan". The New York Times. 
  5. ^ Tampopo at Rotten Tomatoes

Further reading[edit]

  • Ashkenazi, Michael. "Food, Play, Business, and the Image of Japan in Itami Juzo's Tampopo". In Anne Bower, ed., Reel Food: Essays on Food and Film (New York: Routledge, 2004).

External links[edit]