Tampopo (Juzo itami, 1985), “the first ramen western”, is one of the all-time great genre-defying films.
It’s a profound, exuberant, nuanced meditation on food, sex, dedication, and life, with a succession of wonderful personalities led by truckdriver Gorō as he helps widowed Tampopo to perfect the noodles (“sincere, but lacking in character”) that she serves in her struggling little restaurant. Here’s a trailer:
Every single scene is beautifully crafted, but vignettes include
- the French restaurant scene
- an etiquette class for women on how to eat spaghetti properly.
- the hobo scene (shades of Steinbeck’s Tortilla flat and Sweet Thursday, and indeed Hanshan), moving from veneration of the master to slapstick, and sequeing into
- the most erotic scene ever. Breaking an egg will never be the same again (nor, for that matter, will the Mahler Adagietto—throughout, the choice of music is brilliant).