Blu-ray Review – Tampopo


Director: Juzo Itami 

Screenplay: Juzo Itami

Minutes: 114

Year: 1985

Score: 8.20

Release: Criterion Collection

I dare you to watch this movie without feeling hungry, and maybe something else too, a couple of other feelings. Juzo Itami makes food both wholesome, funny, exciting, and sexy and wraps it all up in less than two hours. Tampopo is the sort of unconventional film which does not come around too often but when it does you (sorry) HAVE to (again, sorry) load up your (forgive me) plate.

From The Criterion Collection:

The tale of an eccentric band of culinary ronin who guide the widow of a noodle-shop owner on her quest for the perfect recipe, this rapturous “ramen western” by Japanese director Juzo Itami is an entertaining, genre-bending adventure underpinned by a deft satire of the way social conventions distort the most natural of human urges—our appetites. Interspersing the efforts of Tampopo (Nobuko Miyamoto) and friends to make her café a success with the erotic exploits of a gastronome gangster and glimpses of food culture both high and low, the sweet, sexy, and surreal Tampopo is a lavishly inclusive paean to the sensual joys of nourishment, and one of the most mouthwatering examples of food on film ever made.

The first time I watched Tampopo was in a theater with a bunch of strangers.  Before the screening I tried to explain to my wife how excited I was to see it on the big screen. She did not understand and I still can’t explain it. It does not make sense. Try it, explain to someone that you want to watch a movie about a down-on-her-luck noodle-shop owner who has a manic pixie dude come into her life. You can’t, or you can and you are better at this than I am.

Now explain the unrelated paraphilias scene. The yolk, try explaining that.

Tampopo is inexplicably perfect. Somewhat, deep, rapscallions who are deftly charming. A come-from-behind story. Meta-writing. A weird shrimp scene. And food, the glorious food. The cherry (sorry) on top is just how incredibly funny the film is without become a caricature comedy film. I am talking a ‘Tom Hanks’ level of comedy charm.

The sad part is how few people have watched this kooky film due to a language barrier. I will admit that at times it is difficult to keep up with the antics while also reading the subtitles. But I truly wish that everybody has a chance to watch this movie. That is how much I love the film.

Shipping with Criterion’s wacky “C” suggests that I wouldn’t need to say this, but, the picture quality on the blu-ray is fantastic. Crisp and clear like properly cooked (sorry) broth. While I haven’t had a chance to watch all of the special features yet the 90 minute making of was very interesting and a little helpful in explaining the film and the interview with Tampopo herself Nobuko Miyamoto speaking both on the film and her husband, the director, was touching.

Without a doubt Tampopo is an easy nomination for release of the year and can be ordered HERE.

Director: 10 – Cinematography: 10 –  Edit: 6 – Parity: 7 – Main performance: 10 – Else performance: 7 – Score: 5 – Sound: 8 – Story: 8 – Script: 9 – Effects: 6 – Design: 8 – Costumes: 9 – Keeps interest: 10 – Lasting: 10