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flick pick | Tampopo (Dandelion) 1987
Directed + written by:
Juzo Itami
Starring: Tsutomu Yamazaki, Nobuko Miyamoto, Koji Yakusho
Language: Japanese [with English subtitles]
Look for it at the video store under: foreign [drama], comedy
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something:  whimsical
The verdict: ˝ / 5 the rating system explained

Plot synopsis In the central storyline, hungry truckdriver – and noodle gourmand -- Goro pulls into town in his big shining truck, a modern day cowboy western hero complete with big brown cowboy hat. He ends up at a little noodle shop run by frazzled widow Tampopo. Sweet Tampopo tries hard, but, as Goro tells her quite frankly when she asks for the honest truth, her noodles are simply terrible. He offers a step-by-step dissection of her noodle technique, leaving Tampopo so impressed and inspired that she begs him to stay in town and help her become a noodle master. As Goro and Tampopo embark on a very earnest search for the Perfect Bowl of Noodle Soup, the movie veers off into a few mostly un-related food-centered vignettes: a gangster and his moll indulge in quasi-erotic food play; a woman on her deathbed drags herself into the kitchen to make her husband and family one last supper; a group of Japanese businessmen at a chi-chi French restaurant all order the same thing as their boss, except one bold youngster who dares to show off his epicurean proclivities. In the end, it all comes back to Tampopo, who, with the help of Goro and a ragtag team of other unlikely noodle experts – a vagabond, a chauffeur, and a contractor who’s in love with her – slowly works towards gaining confidence in herself and finding the soul in her food.

Review Food and love and food and culture and food and movies and food and sex and … oh yeah, did I mention that this movie is about food? Structured like a spoof of a spaghetti western – a noodle western, ha! – that seamlessly veers off on frequent stream-of- consciousness tangents, Tampopo is a movie that’s obsessed with food – its tastes, its textures, its preparation, and its role in Japanese culture. The gusto with which the characters approach food is both hilarious in its earnestness – in one very funny scene near the beginning of the film, an old noodle master gives his eager young protégé a painstakingly detailed tutorial on the proper method for enjoying noodle soup – and admirable as well. They don’t just love food; they love good food, and their noble quest to find the perfect gustatory experience is like the path towards nirvana. Between the appealingly oddball characters, the subtle flashes of pathos, the pointed satire, and the quasi-orgiastic visual feast of the food cinematography, Tampopo is pretty much pure comedic perfection. Run out and rent it now … just make sure you don’t watch on an empty stomach.
reviewed by
Yee-Fan Sun 

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