A film that manages to make noodles epic!

Tampopo is rather strange and quirky—and definitely deserves to have the label ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet’!  Yet, it is highly enjoyable, wholly original and quite clever.  And, not surprisingly, it comes from Japan—a nation that seem to have a knack for making lovable yet bizarre films.

The movie begins with a gangster sitting in the front row of a movie theater and being waited on and pampered by his minions–complete with Champaign and a beautiful meal on his own private little table.  All this occurs before the movie begins. He is facing the camera and he soon begins addressing the audience about the movie Tampopo! Then, the credits begin to roll. It’s a cute little scene that’s certainly unusual, huh?!

The main story is about a rather sad and run down noodle shop owned by a sweet lady named Tampopo. Two truckers enter the shop and get in a fight. The next morning, the trucker who got beaten up badly (Ken Watanabe) is fed by Tampopo. She asks him and the other trucker what they thought of the noodle dish she’d made them the night before.  She’s such a nice lady, so they reluctantly tell her it was bad….and not only bad but absolutely terrible! She wants to make it better but just doesn’t know where to start and so she asks for their help—though what should truckers know about noodle dishes?! The hero of the story (the guy who got beat up) it a bit of an obsessive nut about ramen and he takes her under his wing and sees helping her as his sacred duty.
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Through the course of the movie, he takes her to meet various people who all agree to help her.  One helps her improve her broth, one to improve her noodles, one to remodel the restaurant, and so on. All this is done with a healthy dose of heart and a light comedic touch. Despite this ONLY being a noodle restaurant, it seems at times reminiscent of either Rocky or The Magnificent Seven as the folks all work together on a project like it’s a matter of life or death! Additionally, there are several small stories that seem to randomly enter the movie from time to time. All center on the theme of food and those who adore it. Particularly strange is the same gangster who has an intense food fetish. Be forewarned parents, the scenes he has with his girlfriend are a bit graphic!

Even the end of the movie stresses this same theme as the camera pans onto a scene of an infant happily sucking away at his mother’s breast! Great acting and quirky characters you care about make this an excellent picture.  But it is strange…and I can pretty much guarantee you’ve never seen anything like it.  And, fortunately, it should also put a smile on your face.  Finding it might be difficult, though last I checked it was available through Netflix.

Article by Lead Entertainment Writer & Film Critic, Martin Hafer

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