The Japanese have a very special relationship with food. Often bathed in tradition and ceremony, food and drink are oft en as much about spirituality or religion than fulfilling a natural function. And as Naomi Kawase’s Sweat Bean (An) adeptly demonstrated last year, for the chef the pursuit of perfection is almost as important as being successful. The same can be said for Juzo Itami’s offbeat comedy Tampopo; a ramen western with plenty of bite.
Tampopo’s (Nobuko Miyamoto) ramen noddle shop is struggling. She took over after her husband died, but doesn’t really know what she’s doing. That is until Gorō (Tsutomu Yamazaki) and his sidekick Gun (Ken Watanabe) ride into town. With the help of a chauffeur (Kinzô Sakura), an old master (Yoshi Katô) and an interior decorator (Rikiya Yasuoka, Gorō is determined to transform it into the best restaurant in the area.
Whilst Tampopo may have a (fairly) coherent central plot, there’s lots of action taking place around the edges. Itami revels in the madcap, and these ‘intermissions’ all poke fun at ‘80s Japanese culture whilst proving to be both intriguing and hilarious. Riffing on spaghetti westerns, especially The Magnificent Seven (or should that be Seven Samurai?), Tampopo is a rollercoaster ride of culinary high jinks and cultural satire. Prepare to be hungry!
- New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray
- The Making of “Tampopo,” a ninety-minute documentary from 1986, narrated by director Juzo Itami
- New interview with actor Nobuko Miyamoto
- New interview with food stylist Seiko Ogawa
- New interviews with ramen scholar Hiroshi Oosaki and chefs Sam White, Rayneil De Guzman, Jerry Jaksich, and Ivan Orkin
- Rubber Band Pistol, Itami’s 1962 debut short film
- New video essay by filmmakers Tony Zhou and Taylor Ramos on the film’s themes of self-improvement and mastery of a craft
- New English subtitle translation
- PLUS: An essay by food and culture writer Willy Blackmore
Tampopo is released on Blu-ray by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment as part of the Criterion Collection on Monday 1 May.