French Cuisine in a Ramen Western

A close up camera shot of a French cuisine menu in the film, Tampopo, directed by Juzo Itami.  This particular screen shot is included in a scene in which a group of successful businessmen are ordering a french meal from a fancy restaurant in a grandiose hotel.

A close up camera shot of a French cuisine menu in the film, Tampopo, directed by Juzo Itami. This particular screen shot is included in a scene in which a group of successful businessmen are ordering a french meal from a fancy restaurant in a grandiose hotel.

I believe that the most significant scene in the Japanese comedy film, Tampopo,  directed by Juzo Itami, is the scene in which a group of businessmen gather to eat French cuisine in a high rise hotel. The director, Itami, is able to successfully convey many central themes by incorporating this particular scene. The scene, during the middle of the movie, essentially depicts the main concepts and social happenings which typically occurred in Japan as a result of its globalization. In addition to the inclusion of this particular scene, knowledge of the Meiji period and the globalization of Japan allows the audience to fully comprehend why this particular scene is of importance to the understanding of the central themes presented in this collection of comical vignettes by Itami.

The scene begins with a group of Japanese businessmen in suits entering a restaurant located in a high rise hotel. Itami continues to include medium shots of individual businessmen telling their order to the waiter along with a close up shot of the menu which seems to be completely in French. The director then concludes the scene with one of the businessman’s assistants giving the waiter an intricate dinner order, leaving the other businessmen gasping in awe.

Specifically, the screenshot in which the director uses a close up of the French menu encompasses one of the preeminent themes of the film, which is the progressive globalization of Japan, emphasizing in particular on the evolution of food. During the time period in which Japan was becoming a nation with the second largest economy in the world, many aspects of Japanese culture were influenced by foreign countries, such as Great Britain, Russia, and especially France. France was the most influential, due to its control of vast regions of Europe as a result of Napoleon’s reign. Consequently, the screen shot highlights to what extent Japanese culture was affected by France.

Furthermore, some of the preceding screen shots in the same scene contribute to the revealing nature of the close up of the menu. For instance, the low angle shot of the high rise building in the beginning of the scene aggrandizes the hotel and makes the audience question why the hotel is significant to the movie plot. The director integrates the low angle shot of the hotel to serve as a parallel to the luxury of the French cuisine provided within its wall. Additionally, the fact that the menu is completely in French demonstrates the grand stature of the restaurant and signifies what kinds of clients it serves. This particular restaurant appears to cater toward customers of high social status such as businessmen and corporate owners. Essentially, Itami embodies this scene into the film in order to contrast the different lifestyles of people in Japan. such as the lifestyle of Tampopo, who can be assumed to have a middle class lifestyle when compared to the businessmen.

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