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102 of 105 found the following review helpful:
If you love food and Alton Brown... Aug 13, 2006
By C. Matsusaka
...you will love this movie for it explores (with hysterical results) why food becomes such an important touchstone in life.
Truck driver Goro and Gun are in search of some good eats and run into a widow who is trying to run a ramen shop. Unfortunately, she's not doing too well so Goro and some unlikely guides offer her some sage advice and help her on her way to becoming a true ramenista. The story is punctuated with some vignettes about the "social aspects" of eating and our behavior with food.
THIS EDITION NOTES: This is a "no-frills" deal with the bear minimum of subtitle options and the movie's original trailer. Although Amazon is listing the zone playability as "unknown" the jacket lists it as ALL ZONES. It played on our ancient Zenith DVD player which can only handle zone 1 DVDs and nothing else. Picture is good, but sound quality is poor. However, its definitely worth the price to see this wonderful movie once again!
75 of 79 found the following review helpful:
The Wild Bunch at the noodle shop. Slurp! Oct 07, 2002
By Dennis Littrell
There are any number of very funny scenes in this lightly plotted and highly episodic romantic comedy from acclaimed Japanese director Juzo Itami. You may recall him as the guy who got in trouble with the Yakuza, the Japanese "mafia," because they didn't like the way he made fun of them in Minbo no onna (1992). You may also know that he committed suicide at the age of 64 in 1997 after being accused of adultery. He is the son of samurai film maker Mansaku Itami. I mention this since one of the things satirized here are samurai films.
But--and perhaps this is the secret of Itami's success both in Japan and elsewhere--the satire is done with a light, almost loving touch. Even though he also takes dead aim at spaghetti westerns and the Japanese love affair with food, especially their predilection for fast food noodle soup, at no time is there any rancor or ugliness in his treatment.
If you've seen any Itami film you will be familiar with his star, his widow, Nobuko Miyamoto, she of the very expressive face, who is perhaps best known for her role as the spirited tax collector in Itami's The Taxing Woman (1987) and The Taxing Woman Returns (1988). She has appeared in all of his films. Here she is Tampopo ("Dandelion"), a not entirely successful proprietor of a noodle restaurant. Along comes not Jones but Tsutmu Yamazaki as Goro, a kind of true grit, but big-hearted Japanese urban cowboy. He ambles up to the noodle bar and before long establishes himself as a kind of John Wayne hero intent on teaching Tampopo how the good stuff is made. Along the way Itami makes fun of stuffy bureaucrats, macho Japanese males, heroic death scenes, Japanese princesses attempting to acquire a European eating style, movie fight scenes, and God knows what else.
The comedy is bizarre at times. The sexual exchange of an egg yoke between the man in the white suit (Koji Yakusho) and his mistress (Fukumi Kuroda) might make you laugh or it might just gross you out. The enthusiastic description of the "yam sausages" from inside a wild boar is strange. Surely one is not salivating at such an entre, but one can imagine that such a "delicacy" might surely exist and have its devotees.
Indeed an Itami film has a kind of logic all its own. An exemplary scene is that of the stressed and dying mother of two young children, who is ordered by her husband to "Get up and cook!" This (reasonably relevant) scene is juxtaposed with the one with the college professor which is about being and getting ripped off--which seems to have little to do with the rest of the movie, yet somehow seems appropriate, perhaps only because they are at a restaurant. Another typical Itami scene is the businessmen at supper. They hem and haw until their chief orders and then they all pretend to debate and consider, and then order exactly the same thing except for one brash young guy who dazzles (and embarrasses) the old sycophantic guys by order a massive meal in French with all the trimmings.
The climax of the film comes with plenty of musical fanfare. As Goro and others sit down at the counter, they are served Tampopo's final culinary creation, the noodle soup now hopefully honed to perfection. As the tension mounts, a musical accompaniment, reminiscent of something like the clock ticking in High Noon (1952), rises to a crescendo. All the while Tampopo sweats and frets and prays that she will triumph, which will be in evidence if, and only if, they drain their soup bowls! (Do they?)
The final credits roll (after some further misdirections and some further burlesque) over a most endearing and ultimately touching shot of a young mother with a beautiful and contented infant feeding at her breast.
Perhaps this was Itami's best film.
--Dennis Littrell, author of "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!"
48 of 49 found the following review helpful:
The Japanese culture through humorous eyes Oct 26, 2000
I've owned the VHS version of this movie for several years and recently purchased the DVD (October 2000). I immediately noticed the improved clarity of the picture and heard sounds that I hadn't heard before on the VHS video. I enjoyed it even more - the picture was crisp and the soundtrack clear. This letterbox edition allows the subtitles to be turned off and contains a list of all the productions that Itami, Yamazaki, and Miyamoto were involved. I held off buying it due to the bad ratings some gave the quality of this DVD, but the version I got was great! If you've spent time in Japan, the zany humor really comes through, such as the group of businessmen in the New Otani Hotel French restaurant all ordering the same thing until the least senior of the group is reached. Even if you haven't lived there, it's an original film with an original approach to cinematography. As one of my favorite films from Japan, I give it 5 stars both on the movie and the DVD.
37 of 37 found the following review helpful:
Howdy There Pahdner! Jun 06, 2003
By Robin C.
I'm guessing that the director, Itami, had a great love for all the movie genres, including Westerns, gangster movies, comedies, you name it, because they are all loving reflected in this movie.
As others have noted, the plot is definitely patterned after Italian Spaghetti Westerns--a handsome but weathered character (Goro) comes into town and spots a widowed mother in distress (Tampopo). With the help of his eccentric friends (including a band of culinary hobos that sing in exquisite harmony a farewell song whenever their leader leaves them for a time), Goro helps Tampopo turn her fortunes around by becoming a noodle soup master! I could definitely see John Wayne playing the part of Goro every time he adjusted the brim of his cowboy hat or the bandana around his neck.
In addition to the main story line of the winsome noodle shop owner, several unconnected episodes are included. What ties them all together seems to be the theme of enjoying and appreciating and living for food, from the story of the noodle master imparting his wisdom on the perfect noodle soup to the disciple, to the old woman who sneakily wanders through an upscale grocery store just to TOUCH food, to the charismatic gangster whose dying words to his lover are about the wonders of an esoteric food delicacy, the intestines of freshly killed boars who have dined on yams that make a natural yam sausage.
Sounds odd, I know, but the director has a warm, affectionate viewpoint that lets us enjoy the eccentricities of the characters while still feeling good about them. There is not the faintest trace of meanness or cynicism in this movie. Laugh out loud scenes make this one of the funniest movies I've seen in years, and the honesty and poignancy of the wonderful characters will make this movie live in my memory for many years.
25 of 25 found the following review helpful:
Completely concerned with food. Oh, & sex & life too. Aug 02, 2007
By D. Anthony Patriarche
This is on my top ten list of the funniest, most delightful movies of all time. The main plot line is a loving satire of the "adult" western of the fifties - "Shane" in particular - where the hero drifts into town, helps the poor widow get her life together and beat the bad guys, then drifts out again. Tampopo, the heroine, must make the best noodle soup in town to overcome the villainous other noodle houses.
But what makes this movie extraordinary are the vignettes, both within the plot-line and outside it, that mingle food, sex, cultural hangups, life and death in hilarious and sometimes very touching combinations.
The movie succeeds not only because of its marvellous material and fine actors but also through excellent direction and cinematography. For example, the scene toward the end where Tampopo & Goro are eating companionably in a restaurant: notice the camera movement from the food to the people; the positions of the actors conveying clearly the ambiguity of the relationship and their attitudes to each other; how at times Goro actually has his back to the camera; the cut to the symbolic passing train, nicely understated; the whole scene is an example of effective simplicity in movie-making.
This movie is ultimately unclassifiable; it is itself, funny, sad (sometimes both at once), shocking, absorbing; but above all funny. I have never seen another film quite like it, and it stays in the memory like the best of Fellini.
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