More Than “Just Ramen”

Tampopo is a Japanese comedy film directed by well renowned director, Juzo Itami. This movie is about a woman who is trying to make a living off of making ramen but is failing to succeed in her business endeavors. Although the plot surrounds the main character, Tampopo, and her quest to finally make a ramen that her customers will love and subsequently bring in more business, this film has a lot of subplots that gives it a deeper meaning and that presents its audience new ideas and perspectives. One of these is the idea of hierarchy and how it relates to the appreciation of food. 

One particular scene that stood out to me as I was watching Tampopo is what seemed to be a business lunch including high ranking executives and a young subordinate. The setting of this meeting is already setting up the mood as it is located at a high end Western styled restaurant as opposed to what most would consider as high end Japanese restaurants. Food has a lot to do with social class. More often than not, Western food, particularly French cuisine, is often associated to class and wealth. 

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In this particular scene, we see that the distance of shot is medium. By giving the camera this distance from the actors, the audience can see everything that is happening. In the screenshot we see the subordinate who is indulged in the menu and is going along just fine ordering what he wants. By watching the movie, we are aware that he is well knowledgeable of French cuisine, which seemed to shock the his two superiors who are sitting right next to him. Despite being in a higher ranked position, everyone in the table ordered the same food. They pretended to look through the menu but got the exact same thing that the person next to them got.

The only reason why people find it shocking that the subordinate is able to know so much about that kind of food is because of the fact that he is in a lower social class than them. That is why I feel that this scene is an important part of the whole movie. The story of this subordinate relates to how the movie is trying to make a statement about ramen. Ramen is not exactly a gourmet food. Ramen is a food for the common man in Japan but the movie, Tampopo, is aiming to show its audience that Ramen can be so much more. In a way, the ramen can be a representation of the subordinate. At first glance, you would never assume that he would know so much about food because after all, he is just an ordinary person but it turns out he has a special quality that people who are above him don’t even have. This is very much how the movie is trying to show that ramen has a lot of things to offer especially with the way that people prepare and appreciate it.

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