Tampopo is a comedy about food adventures. Its plot is not well-knit. Instead, besides telling the main story, it also parallel depicts several side-stories which seem totally unrelated to the main plot. These side-stories, which carry on the essence cloaked in an unwitting appearance, however, are what really make the movie stand out.
Tampopo‘s main plot is about a couple of people try to bring a widow and her closing down ramen shop a new life. After joint efforts and, Tampopo’s ramen shop is transferred to a highly rated and appreciated one in the area, having lots of customer while edging other competitors. However, the side-stories have nothing to do with Tampopo and her ramen shop but one thing in common: they are all about food cultures.
First on the screen is the Yakuza member in a cinema, but what impressed the audience is the way he uses the food, erotically. He represents the other side of the food: sex, violence and death. In one scene, he plays sex game with his mistress. They use lemon, cake, yolk, and even raw shrimps as their sex tool. This link between sex and food isn’t surprising, as both are instinct of humans. This isn’t a blue movie, but the way it combines the eroticism and food is great, making people realize that food can be used the other way.
Another side-story is about the art of food ordering. At a high-class luxury French restaurant, all the other managers wait for their boss to order first and then order the same food as their boss does. But an intern doesn’t think so. He knows everything about French food and orders something else, even when his boss kicks him under the table. On one hand, this reflects the idea of hierarchy in Japanese culture; on the other hand, this is a good example to say that everybody is equal in front of food and no one has privilege.
Other stories include an old “professor” tries to double-crossing a swindler, insisting to finish his roast duck when being caught; etiquette teacher fails to teacher how to have spaghetti after a foreign man enjoys his dish with big noise; homeless people makes food for Tampopo’s son and plays “cat and mouse” game with the security, etc. They are funny, short, unrelated to Tampopo’s ramen but relevant to the whole theme of the movie: food.
The movie starts with food, with the Yakuza member talking about eating chips in a cinema. The movie ends with food as the casting subtitle coming, the scene changes to a young mother breastfeeding her child, as for a baby sucking is his born instinct. Besides, the Yakuza member died dreaming to have boar in the winter. The life, from the beginning to the end, is all about food in the movie阔, implying that food is heaven to humans. Because of these unique side stories, Tampopo’s humor is on the next level.