Have you ever been in the middle of watching a movie and realized you’re watching one of your new favorite films? The credits haven’t even rolled yet, but you know – like really, really know – that you’re watching an all-timer. It only happens to me once in a very great while, and there are only a small handful of experiences in life that bring me as much joy
I’m delighted to say that magic struck again for me last week as I watched Tampopo for the first time, and instantly fell in love.
The movie is an ode to food that weaves isolated vignettes around the core story of Tampopo and her sad little ramen shop. It had me from the very first scene and never let me go.
The various vignettes mine comedy from the modern human relationship to food, with all the beauty, community, absurdity, artistry, and sensuality it brings to our lives – often with a focus on the more food obsessed among us. From the recurring scenes of an epicure gangster and his lover, to the band of homeless men who are actually gastronomic geniuses, nearly every minute strikes gold.
Then, the central narrative is like Seven Samurai, but instead of a ragtag group of ronin, it’s a ragtag group of amateur food lovers; and instead of helping poor farmers fight off bandits, they’re trying to help a woman create an amazing ramen shop; and instead of a sweeping action epic, it’s a hilarious comedy.
There’s sex, death, crime, family drama, joy, jabs at sociocultural roles and assumptions, and lots of glorious silliness. Also, as I discovered when I looked up the cast after the fact, Ken Watanabe was in the movie the whole fucking time!
You should watch Tampopo. Or we should watch Tampopo together virtually. Or after quarantine we can all watch Tampopo in the same room. Or, better yet, all of the above, in whatever order suits you. What I’m saying is, please watch Tampopo.