Cook with Joy

Screenshot of Omelette Rice-Cooking

The homeless man is frying rice for the omelette rice dish. The speed of frying is so fast that the screen cannot really take it clearly in one frame.

In the movie Tampopo, the heroine, Tampopo, goes to a group of homeless men to invite their sensei to teach her cooking. During the invitation talk, a homeless man and Tampopo’s son, Tabo, sneak into a kitchen. The man cooks omelet rice for Tabo. The scene of making omelet rice is important because it is the first time the film introduces cooking as something desirable and joyful. Before this scene, Tampopo struggles with cooking and considers it as a way to make a living. The scene marks a turning point where Tampopo changes her attitude towards cooking.

The sneaking results in suspense, so that the audience are surprised by the next scene. This surprise can make a deeper impression on the viewers. When the homeless man and Tabo sneak into a door, the camera takes a bird’s-eye shot, reminding viewers of their identity as outsiders. The shot angle evokes viewer’s desire to look into the door. Thus, when a kitchen shows up on the screen, the homeless man astonishes viewers with his attempt to cook, which leads to more curiosity on how he cooks. Since the scene of the homeless man cooking is the consequence of the sneaking scene, the latter is an amazing start for the crucial part of the former.

As the man starts cooking, the entry of a guard and stealthy background music invoke tension, adding more spice to the cooking. The camera shoots the guard from the front with a slightly low angle. The approaching posture of the guard makes the music rhythm sound faster, causing accumulated tension.

In contrast, the man pays no attention to the risk of getting caught. The frame I choose is the scene where the homeless man fries the rice. It is difficult to keep everything in the pot, not to mention flipping the food in the pot. However, the homeless man does it calmly without hesitation. The screen is filled with a top view of the frying rice, focusing completely on the food and nothing else. This bird eye’s shot of the pot therefore fulfilled the audience’s mind with cooking. The characters and viewers all seem so captivated by the cooking that the guard is not important any more. The existence of guard sets off the concentration of the homeless man and viewers on the cooking. The situation that viewers are so immersive in the cooking scene demonstrates how much they enjoy the cooking, not to mention the homeless man himself.

The homeless group in Tampopo is so unique. Compared to the general definition of the homeless people, who have no home, and, in fact, have nothing, this homeless group do not need anything else, because food enlightens and enriches their life. They enjoy food, and they understand the art of cooking. On the other hand, Tampopo, in a better financial situation, is tortured by the disastrous soup she makes during her research on Ramen before going to the homeless men. At that point, she had no idea how pleasant cooking can be; cooking for her is only a way of making a living. However, things change after Tabo, returning from the journey of cooking omelet rice secretly, and Sensei, who teaches the homeless men how to enjoy cook, joins Tampopo. Hence, this scene is important as it changes Tampopo’s cooking ideology. Rather than merely cooking to make money and support life, she learn to cook with Joy.

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