J.D. Lafrance
Tampopo: Criterion Collection DVD Review

Tampopo: Criterion Collection

July 20, 2017

Director: Juzo Itami,
Starring: Tsutomu Yamazaki, Nobuko Miyamoto, Koji Yakusho, Ken Watanabe, Rikiya Yasuoka, Kinzo Sakura, Yoshi Kato, Hideji Otaki,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

Tampopo (1985) is a playful yet sincere ode to the art of making and enjoying ramen noodles. Early on, the film schools us as an older, sensei type instructs his young protégé how to appreciate and savor the meal. One dark and stormy night, a hungry truck diver named Goro (Yamazaki) and his buddy Gun (Watanabe) stop for a bite to eat. Outside of the shop a little boy is being beaten up by other children. Goro breaks up the fight and enters the eating establishment. It’s populated by rough-looking, unsavory types that bully the owner, a woman named Tampopo (Miyamoto). Goro defends her honor and fights the local thugs, getting his ass handed to him.

Tampopo takes Goro in and in return he teaches her how to make proper ramen noodles. He also teaches her how to size up a potential customer. Goro treats her with the tough love of a drill instructor, getting Tampopo in physical shape to make noodles and serve them in a timely fashion. “Ramen takes stamina!” he tells her.

Goro has Tampopo observe the competition – what shops do it right and which ones get it wrong. He even enlists the help of a broth sensei, an OB-GYN who had his practice stolen from him and is now a homeless vagrant. It doesn’t hurt that his fellow hobos are discerning connoisseurs of the palate.

The cast is uniformly excellent with Tsutomu Yamazaki and Nobuko Miyamoto having fantastic chemistry together. He is the gruff but lovable truck driver cum gunslinger that arrives in town to help out the widow. She is the plucky cook that wants to have a successful ramen shop and has to learn how to do it. The two characters play well off each other. Both actors display a deft touch for light comedy and the capacity for pathos.

One has to admire director Juzo Itami’s humanistic message that enjoyment of food is something that unifies us all. Of course, we need food to survive but it also can be savored. While ramen noodles have long been celebrated and are an important part of Japanese culture, it was marginalized in North America as a cheap source of food for college students, but in recent years it has finally been given the respect it deserves, demonstrating how ahead of its time Tampopo was.

Special Features:

This new 4K transfer for Tampopo is vastly superior to any of the faded DVD incarnations out there. The colors pop and look natural with excellent detail contained in every frame. This is a fantastic looking transfer.

“The Making of Tampopo” is a feature-length documentary made during the production and narrated by Itami. It’s a video diary and he takes us through his journey, from inception to completion.

Nobuko Miyamoto talks about working on the film and with her husband, director Itami. She enjoyed talking to him at length about acting, what worked and didn’t in the film. He was always pitching her ideas for films and she told him to make one he was passionate about. The end result was Tampopo.

Food stylist Seiko Ogawa talks about her work on the film. She studied food and cooking Itami brought her on to supervise the food aspect of the film – unheard of at the time. Itami had a very specific vision and she would prep the food accordingly.

“The Amateur and the Craftperson” is a video essay that examines the themes of self-improvement and mastery of craft. It argues that the film’s central theme is learning how to appreciate things.

“The Perfect Bowl” explores Tampopo’s influence on food culture in Japan and in the rest of the world. Various experts talk about when they first saw the film and how it influenced them.

“Rubber Band Pistol” is a 1962 short film that marked Itami’s directorial debut. A group of friends are making wood rubber band pistols and goofing around in this whimsical work.

Finally, there is re-release trailer for the film.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 97%

Website: https://www.criterion.com/films/28880-tampopo


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