Tampopo ★★★★★

How I adored this movie! Tampopo is one of those rare pieces of art that moves me just from its sheer artistic triumph. It does so many refreshingly unique things that it's hard to talk about its greatness: pinpointing any single feature just feels like it draws focus away from other amazing feats. It's daring in its narrative structure and in its creativity in gags and in its visual imagery; it works as food porn and as uplifting sports movie and as Monty Python skit parade; it's inspiring and delicious and uplifting and hilarious. It's perfect.

The Criterion features are excellent. Tony Zhou of Every Frame a Painting has a video essay! The short piece is thought-provoking, and it's well-timed for me because I just wrote and gave a lecture for a Professional Ethics course on the concept of the professional. He does the same for the concept of the amateur, drawing from an essay by Michael Chabon. Pursuing the root etymology (amat: to love) leads to a conception of an amateur as someone driven by "obsessive scholarship, passionate curiosity, curatorial tenderness, and an irrepressible desire to join in the game." I love this. (I ordered the Chabon collection immediately.) Tampopo celebrates amateur craft, which is reflected in the architecture and construction of the movie itself. A feature-length documentary on the creation of the movie is also included as a Criterion extra—I've logged it separately—and it shows that although Tampopo is a professional production, the obsession, passion, and curiosity that burst through every facet are the expression of unbridled amateurism. It's exhilarating art about the exhilaration of art.

I've now seen Juzo Itami's first two features in order. I'm going to have to march through his whole corpus, I think.

I've always pronounced the title in my head as if it were an English word with the emphasis on the second syllable. The emphasis is on the first, of course. That makes the word so much more fun to say. I love that it tails off with a quick little 'popo'.

My one complaint is that the girl who shucks an oyster doesn't know how to shuck. You pop an oyster open from the hinge end. She does it from the wrong side.

Personal Challenge: Japanuary

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