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Film / Tampopo

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Tampopo is a 1985 Japanese film directed by Juzo Itami, starring Tsutomu Yamazaki and Ken Watanabe.

A sketch comedy revolving around food, its main narrative involves a pair of truck drivers, one dressed like a cowboy, who take it upon themselves to revitalize the eponymous character's failing ramen shop. Another bit involves a white-suited Yakuza and his mistress engaging in food play. Beyond that, there's a man who teaches the proper method of eating ramen, managers getting upstaged by a subordinate at a French restaurant, spaghetti slurping, homeless foodies, trips to the dentist, an old woman who wrecks a grocer's produce, a pickpocket who loves peking duck, and a dying housewife who prepares one last meal for her family.

The film was popular overseas in the late-'80s art house circuit, and many ramen shops claim to have been inspired by it.

This work contains the following tropes:

  • All Just a Dream: The other shop breaking in and attacking Tampopo.
  • Bar Brawl: Takes place offscreen.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: What the hell are they doing with that poor crayfish?
  • Black Comedy: The scene with the man and his sick wife certainly qualifies.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: The yakuza at the beginning, setting up a dining table in the front row of a movie theater.
  • Culture Clash: Parodied. The high-end European restaurant is offering Western etiquette lessons to Japanese women, where care is taken to demonstrate the "proper" way to eat spaghetti, which is portrayed as a dainty, slow process. The demonstrator is quickly interrupted by a Western man slurping at his own spaghetti, which is ironically the correct etiquette for eating Japanese noodle dishes like ramen.
  • Defeat Means Friendship:
    • After Pisken and Goro fight one last time, they end up as friends.
    • Tabo beats up the three kids who've been picking on him, and they end the movie going off together as friends.
  • Erotic Eating: The crawfish scene.
  • Food Porn: A literal example as well as a figurative one. Let's just say this movie will make you hungry. Specifically, for ramen.
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: Besides the main plotline (and the one about the yakuza and his mistress), there are a few other miniature plots that revolve around food, such as the Ramen Slurp sketch.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: How Goro and Pisken fight.
  • Homage: Various westerns, notably Shane.
  • It Always Rains At Shootouts: When the white-suited yakuza is killed.
  • King of the Homeless: The Old Master, a former doctor and expert on ramen who now leads a band of homeless gourmands who dig through the dustbins behind four-star restaurants.
  • Lighthearted Rematch: After the Bar Brawl, Pisken asks for a rematch. He felt sorry for not fighting Goro one on one, and they spar again leading to Defeat Means Friendship.
  • Never Bareheaded: Goro's cowboy hat. He even wears it in the bath!
  • Old Master: The Ramen Master, who gives extensive advice on the making, eating, and general philosophy of noodles.
  • Overcomplicated Menu Order: In a commentary on traditional Japanese business etiquette, a bunch of businessmen visit a French restaurant and each orders the same meal (Sole Meuniere with consomme and a Heineken) so as not to upstage anyone more seniornote  — except the most junior executive. He turns out to be an expert on French food, and makes a complex order and wine selection that thrills the waiter, but embarrasses the heck out of everyone else.
  • Postmodernism: A Downplayed example. It only breaks the fourth wall once, but the movie has a handful of playful transitions (wipes, irises, fades, etc.); occasional abandoning of the A-plot to introduce or return to a sketch; goes back-and-forth between “high-art” comedy of manners and “low-art” wacky slapstick; using classical music pieces for its A-plot scenes; thematically blurs the line between “high-class” sophisticated cuisine and “low-class” comfort cuisine; and sometimes jarringly switches tones and genres depending on the sketch or plot point.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: The movie uses Mahler in several places. Also Liszt.
  • Ramen Slurp: A sketch revolves around it.
  • Recycled In Space: Shane WITH RAMEN!
  • Serious Business: The preparation and consumption of food, as most of the characters see it. Often Played for Laughs, but also to tantalize the viewers.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Tampopo in the chef's outfit.
  • Stealth Based Omelette Making: A group of homeless people break into a restaurant at night in order to use the kitchen.
  • The Tooth Hurts: In one of the sketches, a man suffers from this that prevents him from eating. It turns out to be pulp gangrene.
  • Training Montage: Parodied with ramen making.
  • White Shirt of Death: When the yakuza is shot.
  • Yakuza: One of the major characters.