Everyone’s Gotta Eat!

Director Itami Juzo’s style of incorporating many different genres into one-film gives the image of the purpose of food is universal. Even though the movie, Tampopo, is not filmed in different areas of the world besides Japan. However, because of the different genres, the audience feels the sense of being in many different worlds. The movie is in fact based in Japan; the movie is also filmed in many different areas and still gives a sense of being somewhere completely different from the main plot.

Through out the different genres, Itami provides a theme that not only that everyone eats but we live our lives around food. Through food people can come together, express their love, grieve over sadness, and present a higher status. Between westerns, mafias, and even mentoring adventures, Juzo beautifully ties in all the underlying themes of the world coming together over food in Tampopo.

The over all, or main genre of the film would be characterized as a “ramen western”. It is an interesting genre to pick for the overall theme; to have what seems to be an older based genre for very modern plots and concepts for the time portrays the ideas and cultures of food are timeless. Within this ramen western, food is portrayed as being traditional. Westerns are characterized as very traditional in the sense that the plot generally follows in a specific formula: the main character, who is a stranger to the town, walks into the saloon, gets in a fight, is begged to stay, saves the town, and leaves being remembered as the hero.

Goro and Gun walking into the “Ramen Saloon”



This idea of tradition can also be seen in the actual food that is the main topic of this Japanese film: ramen noodles. The audience can see the tradition through the specific way of how the dish is made. The dish is prepared in a specific way: things must be place in the soup in a specific order and specific time in order for the soup to be clear, the noodles must be let to sit in cook for a certain time, no longer or shorter, and they must be served in a very specific way.

While the audience is intently watching the Ramen western the shot suddenly pans over to a group of businessmen and into a new theme of a mafia film and new idea of food. With the break in the main plot there is still a significant message that gets tied into the overall theme that food is not only nutritional or traditional, but also a way of life. In this case, the audience witnesses how food can show a sign of status and dominance over a group of people. The screen shot the audience is first introduced to is the scene of the business man and his minions walking over to a nice restaurant at the top of a very modern, powerful, towering building. Everything is extravagant from the room to the French menu. Once inside one can get a sense of who stands where within the business food chain. People refuse to order because it is out of their place to call the shots and only order what their boss is ordering.  In this scene the food is bringing people together and also putting people in their place.

Not only does food have many different functions in our lives but also is a universal concept.  Juzo smoothly represents the universal theme through many different genres within the film.


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