January 11, New York: It was about twenty degrees outside last night. But it was time to watch Tampopo, so Jill and I went around the corner and waited outside in the crowd gathered in that freezing air, all to eat the best ramen in the city. Full and warm and sleepy after we slurped down to the bottoms of our bowls, we came home, pulled up some covers and settled in.
Tampopo is the weirdest little film about loving food (and loving film) you’ll ever see. The titular character (whose name means “dandelion”) owns a little ramen shop next to the highway. A truck driver (the Western genre drifter) decides to help her make her noodles the best in the city. That story, plus the vignettes that surround it, unfold in an absurd little universe in which the pleasures of the palette trump all else.
Tampopo is not just about food, but also about film. It begins in a movie theater with an enigmatic white-suited man (a gangster, perhaps?) articulating the supreme pleasure of watching a film. This character and his lover appear at various points to mix food and sex in sensual and absurd ways. It is he who delivers the most impassioned monologue of the film, dying (foretold by his opening monologue about the monologues of dying characters), and telling the story of wild boars in winter, their intestines filled with yams.
It’s an odd film, but so good. It’s fun throughout, the main story is so cute, and you will never look at ramen the same way again.