Tampopo: Every Scene Has a Story

Tampopo, directed by Itami Juzo, is a film about a widowed woman named Tampopo and her pursuit to make a name for herself in the highly competitive Japanese ramen restaurant industry. This journey is sparked by Tampopo’s encounter with a man by the name of Goro, who criticizes the ramen she makes at her restaurant. After pleads from Tampopo, Goro eventually agrees to help train her so she can perfect her ramen cooking skills and gain success. This film incorporates many themes including romance and humor but the agreement between Tampopo and Goro exemplifies what in my opinion is one of the most important ideas of Tampopo: assisting those who need a helping hand.

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Goro comes to the rescue of Tabo as he is being beaten up by bullies.

As Goro and his partner Gun first arrive outside of Tampopo’s small ramen shop, Goro rushes to help defend a boy who is getting beaten up by three bullies as shown in the screenshot above. After chasing the bullies away, Goro and the boy come inside the restaurant where Goro learns that the boy he just helped is Tampopo’s son, Tabo. The reason I find great significance in this scene is because it serves as an excellent example of foreshadowing the fact that Goro is going help Tampopo. Goro makes an effort to protect the young boy simply because he realizes that he is in need of help, but is unaware that this small action will lead to him helping Tampopo as well. First, by fighting a very rude customer inside Tampopo’s restaurant to protect Tampopo’s self esteem regarding her cooking skills, and finally, by improving Tampopo’s ramen cooking skills through an array Rocky Balboa-like training scenes as well as the adoption of new cooking techniques. There are many other elements within this screenshot that add to its significance and importance although they may not be immediately evident.  The camera range used in this scene is a medium-long shot which is used because it can show all of the characters involved in the scene while also including some of the scenery in the background. This type of shot is commonly used in fight scenes which relates to this situation because this can be seen as a small skirmish.

An additional noteworthy element of the mise en scene is the use of a train in the background of the shot. An appearance of a train has significance particularly in Japanese films because it is symbolic of a change in characters, either meaning new characters are entering the plot or current characters are leaving. In the case of this scene, it foreshadows that Goro will soon meet Tampopo for the first time. The rain in this shot affects both the sound and lighting of the scene. These elements add to the dark tone of this scene which affects the viewer’s perspective on the ramen shop. Essentially, all of these details of the screenshot come together to show why a scene which may seem rather insignificant at first is actually an important message to what the plot of the film revolves around.

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