Before Tampopo, I’ve always thought food to be a pretty straight-forward process: a person gets hungry, therefore one eats food to alleviate that hunger, and it’s the pursuit of that “happiness” that we feel after a meal that drives us to our next. Yes, I do understand that eating food is a physiological need, but the mindset that Tampopo puts on its audience is almost trance-inducing: food is more than just a simple eat-pay-repeat maneuver. Food is illustrated in Tampopo as the gateway to many things, it is the gateway to culture, the gateway to respect, a means for economic stability, and the pursuit for the perfect bowl of ramen seems to be the key to unlocking all those things.
Without the proper context, the screenshot doesn’t seem to speak volumes. But I believe this certain shot is extremely pivotal to Tampopo’s progression as a character. In this shot, Goro, an esteemed and already established authoritative figure in this movie, is pitching the idea for the new name of the restaurant, and he decides, “Why not Tampopo?”– implying an obscene amount of trust on Tampopo, who at time of this scene was still a novice and very inexperienced. Goro, as seen from previous scenes is extremely detail-oriented, yelling at Tampopo’s minor mistakes. Goro is anal when it comes to small, seemingly insignificant technicalities but shows complete promise and faith in Tampopo by naming the restaurant after her. The name of a restaurant is arguably the biggest detail that a customer remembers, and it’s incredible how pivotal of a scene this is for Tampopo, as the change of the restaurant’s name, symbolizes not only a new, fresh beginning for this place but on the flipside implies an equally important amount of responsibility for the restaurant’s reputation.
I love this shot not only cause of its simplicity, but also its irony in that Goro’s casual stance seems to contradict the “weight” of his message. The camera angle is placed at above a higher than eye level, and is centered on Goro’s posture as a means to emphasize how relaxed he is. A laid-back, leg over leg, and cigarette-smoking type of posture is usually accompanied with equally casual conversation. The irony comes in his message, when while assuming this stance, he suggests one of his most radical ideas throughout the movie. And though the conveyed, explicit purpose of this scene was to change the name of the restaurant, I love how the director used the opportunity to develop Goro as a calm, collected, disciplined, and intellectual man, or if they simply wanted the audience to like him for being a bad-ass, which is definitely how I absorbed the scene.
The weight of this scene is nearly limitless, as it serves many functions: this scene officially marks a new beginning for the restaurant, this scene solidifies this restaurant as Tampopo’s responsibility (given that her name is on the painted boldly in the front), and this scene progresses Goro as the stereotypical Western hero in this movie. Goro is very Clint Eastwood/Chuck Norris-y by the looks of this shot doesn’t he?