Justin Peterson’s review published on Letterboxd:
Criterion Collection Spine #868
(Foreign language film)
AdamDavie & Justin's Letterboxd Movie Club
For the love of Japanese noodles this is one uniquely strange, yet tasty movie.
"Munch munch munch ..... SSSSSSLLLLLLUUUUURRRRRPPPPPP!"
(Alternate Tampopo review lead: This ain't just your average dorm room Ramen being served up in these parts.)
With Tampopo's savory reputation it was only a matter of time before I finally got to it, and I never expected it to be such a wonderfully meta and culturally rich experience.
- Before the story even kicks-off we get possibly the original 'be respectful in the movie theater' PSA, as this gangster type speaks to the camera to tell the audience what's up
"I'll kill you if you make that noise once the movie starts! Understand? And... I also don't like watch alarms going off."
- The movie has a unique way of veering off from the main storyline to present vignettes that seem to be uniquely Japanese, and provide insights about love and food. For instance, we are introduced to the whole idea of these strict traditions of how to eat Ramen, in a book read by one of the main characters that drives a truck
- All this talk of food makes his partner hungry and they stop at what they later deem to be a mediocre Ramen House, that's run by a sweet woman named Tampopo
- I had always heard this film described as a Ramen western, and I can see why people would make that connection with one of the main characters wearing a cowboy hat, and the restaurant being centered around a bar where some heated confrontations take place. But that's about as far as the western elements go
- So then the main story centers on how this duo of truckers stick around to help make Tampopo's Ramen House become the best around. So you could think of this as a Japanese movie version of 'Restaurant Impossible', as they work to upgrade the quality of her food and the look of her restaurant
- So while this main storyline is sweet and straightforward, it is the side vignettes were things get a little nutty
- There is an ongoing sequence of cutaways that involve a couple and their 'sexy' food porn. The first one has to do with the couple eating off each other, including the woman getting a thrill out of live seafood flapping around inside a bowl on her belly
- And they also have a scene which is one of the most awesome metaphors ever for sex, as they begin to make out by carefully pushing an egg yolk back and forth with their mouths, until the woman seems to climax and the egg yolk busts and runs down her face. Which was somehow icky and sexy all at the same time
- Some sensual oyster sucking with blood spotted on it
- There is a vignette all about dining etiquette where a group of businessmen have a meal together where it is apparently proper for them all to order the same thing. But when one of them doesn't roll with that idea and explores the menu, it causes the rest of them to turn beet red
- On the other end of this same vignette, we hear a woman tell this group of girls that they must not make a sound while eating their noodles, but this is clearly just a gag on the audience as they then all proceed to slurp their noodles very loudly. And OMG are the slurping and sipping sounds exaggerated throughout the rest of the film, which started to get under my skin
- Those of you that are squeamish about animals being harmed will not like when they begin to prep a live turtle to be cooked
- And finally, yet another strange moment takes place in a grocery store, when a store clerk catches and then must go after an older woman who has a fixation with rubbing her hands in unpurchased food, and then tossing it aside
So when it comes to weird Japanese movies I have now seen Tampopo, 'House', and some of the silly Godzilla flicks ... and I am looking forward to checking out some more. Let me know if you have any recommendations. So far I have 'Visitor Q' that has been sitting on my Cringe Movie Bucket List for far too long.
Thanks for reading.
Happy movie watching ... Cheers!