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Blu-ray: Tampopo | reviews, news & interviews

Blu-ray: Tampopo

Blu-ray: Tampopo

Delicious Japanese comedy about deadly rivalry between noodle chefs

Nobuko Miyamoto perfecting her ramen tossing

This is a very welcome 4K digital restoration of Juzo Itami's extremely tasty Japanese comedy from 1985. Nobuko Miyamoto plays Tampopo ("dandelion" in Japanese), a widowed café owner with a small son.

She dishes up bowls of ramen noodles to local trade but business is not good. A passing trucker (Ken Watanabe in Clint Eastwood mode) takes pity on her and rounds up a gang of misfits to help her perfect the recipe. Interspersed with their slapstick adventures – breaking into kitchens, rummaging through rival establishments’ bins, tracking down gourmets living in a hobo jungle – there are comic-satiric vignettes all sharing the foodie theme.

One running gag features a white-suited yakuza and his erotic gourmet encounters; when the movie was first released, it was an amusing parody of Japanese gangster tropes, but it has a new poignancy since Itami’s violent death in 1992 shortly after making the yakuza movie, Minbo. Subtle gags reference Rocky, Death in Venice and The Seven Samurai, but Tampopo itself is a wholly original, warm-hearted paean to the virtues of craftsmanship.

TampopoLike a good bowl of ramen with its slices of fatty pork, bamboo and seaweed toppings, this Criterion Blu-ray release comes garnished with many delicious extras. There’s Itami’s own lengthy making-of documentary from 1986, his debut short film from 1962 (very beatnik), and new interviews with actors, chefs and scholars in both Japan and America analysing not only the film's style but its culinary legacy. The most tasty morsel, though, is a poignant 2016 interview with Miyamoto, who reflects on the pleasures of making the film with her late husband. The actress is as endearingly modest and quietly proud of their movie creation as her character Tampopo is of her perfected ramen.

Smooth but chewy, as one character describes the perfect bowl of noodles, Tampopo is a real movie treat.


It is a wholly original, warm-hearted paean to the virtues of craftsmanship


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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