Tampopo The Ramen Western

In Juzo Itami’s, Tampopo, he portrays many themes in his film. Some examples are in a screen shot that is posted below.


Is he really teaching him the art of soup eating?

This frame is the most important frame in the entire film because it shows the most concepts that Itami wanted to portray, but the two I want to talk about are, the master pupil relationship, and sex and food.

The first theme in this medium shot is the master pupil relationship. This is an important theme in Tampopo. This theme is seen in most scenes in Tampopo. In these relationships it’s the experienced teaching the inexperienced how to perfect a specific craft. In Tampopo this craft is, The Art of Food. It’s interesting how Itami incorporated this concept into Tampopo. In a lot of these scenes it shows the experienced might not be as experienced as they seem. In this scene the sensee, teacher, of ramen has a pork slice and taps his chopsticks on the side of the bowl three times. When Gun asks the sensee, “why?” the sensee replies, “to drain it, that’s all” This is crucial in this analysis of this relationship because it shows that the sensee is doing things out of habit and/or personal desire, not necessarily doing things that enhances or refines the art of food. Itami wanted to express that the enjoyment of food isn’t customs or traditions, but the simple enjoyment of personal preference, which for the sensee was drier meat.

The second Theme is the concept between food and sex. I picked this frame because of the subtitles. The actions that the sensee tells Gun to do, sounds as if he is giving Gun advice on how to please a woman. The pork slices represent a woman’s face, which the noodles and broth represents the body of the woman. In this frame the sensee tells gun to, “First caress the surface,” which is the body. Soon after the sensee tells gun to move the pork to the right side of the soup and then apologize to it, this action humanizes the pork. Also, by moving the pork to another part of the bowl, it symbolizes that the characters are moving away from the important part of the soup, or the woman’s head. The sensee tells gun to start with the noodles first and then drink the broth, while staring at the pork. This part of the scene symbolizes moving down the body and giving cunnilingus, which by staring at the pork it makes the whole experience more intimate. This scene shows how intimate and personal food can be. It also shows how, just like sex, food can give a deep feeling of satisfaction, even pleasure. Itami wanted to show how powerful food can be to a person, so he compares sex, which is one of the basic driving forces in human decisions, with food, which is another  basic driving force.

There are many more themes that could be discussed in this frame and scene, but I think these two are the most important themes in Tampopo.


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