Tampopo (1985) is a very unique film due to the fact that it combines a noodle-centered epic with the style of a classic western movie. This tale follows a mediocre ramen chef who is stuck in a rundown shop where she finds herself facing the challenge to break free from her lack-luster life. What follows is obvious: a Japanese cowboy, in appearance only, comes and shows her the path to becoming the best ramen chef in her town. However, this story is told while being speckled with seemingly random scenes centered around food. These sub plots enforce the overarching story by showing both that food is the center of attention and by strengthening western ideals in a movie that must try really hard to combine noodles and cowboy hats.
A tangent that continues throughout the movie is the relationship of the man in the white suit and his mistress. Actually, we first see these two before we see Tampopo(the ramen chef) and Goro( the “cowboy”). The movie opens up on the scene of a theatre where the man in white enters, followed by not only his mistress but a trio of servants who set up a lavish meal at the front of the theatre. This man in white is a hot shot, playing the role of the well-to-do entrepreneur of the classic western. Breaking the fourth wall, he threatens the audience in saying that he does not like interruptions during his movie.
Just as he spells out his distaste for noisy wrappers, a man in the row behind crumples his chip bag. Instantly the scene changes hostile; the man in white fixes his eyes on the man in the row behind, calmly walks over to him, then proceeds to threaten the man’s life. This confrontation is enforcing the inkling to fight that exists in powerful characters of western movies. This also highlights the actions of Goro, who picks a fight to protect Tampopo the first time he appears in the movie.
Goro’s second confrontation with the main enemy, Pisuken, is fought for the sole purpose of restoring honor. Pisuken claims that he was too drunk to control his men from ganging up on Goro; he proposes that a second fight is had in order to put things on even terms between him and Goro. Two men facing off is a classic stereotype that helps create a western feel in the movie. This scene is supplemented by another where a man comes home to his dying wife.
On her death bed, the wife decides to cook for her family as her final accomplishment. With this, she dies with honor and a smile on her face. The smile represents pride in what she stands for which is commonplace in the protagonists of many western movies.
The side stories in this film are what strongly infuse western ideals into the storyline. Along with the theme of food, every single side story represents a different interpretation of western culture as well as classic western films. Even though at first glance these extraneous scenes seem out of place, they play a crucial role in emphasizing western principles in this ramen-based narrative.