Widely considered to be the best food movie of all time, I finally got around to seeing Tampopo before Christmas. I think my expectations were set too high going in, because I have to admit I was a little disappointed in this cute foodie flick.
The story in this "noodle western" loosely revolves around the proprietress of a ramen shop, Tampopo (Japanese for "Dandelion"), and her quest for the perfect bowl of noodles. I say "loosely" because there are a number of bizarre food-related sketches peppered throughout the movie that regularly interrupt the main story. These include charm school spaghetti-eating lessons, and the funniest/grossest sex-food scene ever put on film.
One of my problems with the movie is that Tampopo is depicted as a helpless half-wit who requires the help and instruction of a group of men to make a decent bowl of ramen. Additionally, all of her recipe improvements are directly stolen from other chefs -- she has no original ideas whatever. As such, Tampopo basically floats through the movie like a puppet and when she finally makes the "perfect" bowl of noodles, it doesn't feel like much of an accomplishment.
While I had issues with Tampopo, I had no problems with another character: the food! The sensuality of eating is a major theme in this film, and the director's love of food is clear. There's no way you can make it through this movie without some of your favourite snacks.
I'm glad I watched Tampopo, but my favourite food movie of all time (Babette's Feast) made it through the battle without a scratch. In fact, there are several I would place above Tampopo in a Top 10 list: Big Night, Eat Drink Man Woman, God of Cookery, and even Ratatouille.
For any animal lovers, beware that there is a live turtle execution in this film.
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