In this scene, reproduction and food as a form of sustenance are choicely placed in juxtaposition; both as factors of primary survival instincts of the human race…But let’s be real, that’s not why this scene caught every one’s attention in class.
We could definitely go down the classical studies route, where deities of love, lust, fortune, and beauty are largely goddesses in every branch of mythology, but I am no expert, so let’s not. Regardless, Itami paints a clear picture that eating shouldn’t be a serious affair. There was a ton of biting and licking involved in the scene, and not all of them are for food. But the subtle reference to similar human gestures for both activities probably isn’t an accident. He emphasizes that eating should be an interactive experience; pointing out the fact that good food should stimulate all of the senses. The presentation, smell, and taste should all be carefully considered for a well put together meal, most definitely for western cuisines, but even more so for good ol’ Ramen. Remember the old man stroking his three pieces of pork at the beginning of the film? Well who knows what interesting things are going on in his mind then? Itami also restates the social aspect of food eating, and of the intimacy prevalent between people who share a meal together, both among families, and apparently lovers too. In regards of filming techniques, the exaggerated camera close-ups are really as intimate as it gets. Nothing like great food to bring people together right?
Although the movie embodies the general theme of promoting appreciation of “traditional comfort food” as opposed to blindly following the fad, it is by no means bashing on western culture or western food. Itami selectively appropriates scenes of modernity, obviously celebrating the young entrepreneurial spirits of post-war Japan, while highlighting that western cuisine (and room service for that matter), is still largely endorsed by progressive yuppies as opposed to older nostalgic folks. In effect he is also depicting the animal like craze behind globalization in Japan, and the untamed nature of modernization and technological advancements driven by a new generation. Which isn’t all that bad, I mean look at how much fun the two of them are having. But of course everything is better in moderation (some parts were going a bit too far in my opinion).
A genuine playfulness carries itself throughout the entire film, and this scene in particular, but if I’d say if there is anything we can be positively sure of, it is that there is nothing more effective in capturing the attention of the audience during a two-hour movie than with a sex scene, and Itami sure knows that well.