top of page


Tampopo (1985), directed by Juzo Itami, is entertaining, funny and occasionally bizarre. Truck drivers Gorō (a cool Tsutomu Yamazaki) and Gun (a young Ken Watanabe) happen upon a run-down ramen shop where they stop for noodles and meet Tampopo (Nobuko Miyamoto), who hasn't mastered the art of making ramen yet. She's nowhere close, actually, and so tough-guy Gorō in a cowboy hat will chivalrously show her the ropes, and will meanwhile fall in love with her, in a reticent sort of way, both well aware he's the wandering type and probably won't be sticking around in the end. All the plot digressions make things more interesting. In the first scene the fourth wall is broken by a gangster and his girl watching a movie (us) as we watch a movie (them). He tells us he can't stand it when people make noise in a theater and warns us not to shed any tears for him should we see him meet his own death (so we know he will). These two pop up now and again, in some outlandish sex-slash-food scenes, as do other eccentrics and deviants. Sometimes called the "noodle western," Tampopo has everything from street fights to heart-melting melodrama to recipe theft. It's offbeat and exemplifies a number of flavors or facets of Japanese humor.

Two hilarious scenes that had me nearly in tears: the spaghetti-eating lesson for a group of ladies who can't stop themselves from slurping up their noodles, and later the part when half a dozen clueless honchos all order the exact same items off a French menu before the young guy accompanying them, an assistant or lackey of some type, orders a much finer, more dignified selection of dishes with confidence and a knowledge of French cuisine but oblivious to how searingly he's embarrassed his senpai. An entertaining movie and good fun.


bottom of page