The In-Between and the Indirect

As a necessity for growth of the body and therefore life, food integrates itself into the daily lives of most people.  This fundamental need, in turn, places food not only in the bowels of its consumers but also somewhere between those sharing the experience. The merit of food does not solely attribute itself to nourishing the body but also to giving sustenance to the soul – in its ability to form and build upon relationships.  Juzo Itami’s Tampopo (1985) showcases this binary nature of food as it follows the travails of Tampopo, a Japanese widow struggling to perfect her ramen with the aid of a truck driver named Goro.  Several subplots highlight that special somewhere food finds itself amongst relationships and weave their way into the film; these subplots are not limited to a couple with a food fetish nor to a woman’s attempt to teach spaghetti etiquette to her ramen-slurping accustomed peers.

 

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Goro and Gun escort Tabo into his mother’s ramen shop after rescuing him. (00:07:48)

 

The first sequence in Tampopo’s ramen shop, in particular, demonstrates food’s ability to bring people together.  After listening to Gun’s story regarding how to properly and proficiently eat noodles, Goro, ravenous for ramen, decides to stop by what appears to be a hole-in-the-wall ramen shop.  There, they rescue Tampopo’s son Tabo from three of his schoolmates’ stomping, and escort him from the rain into the shop.  It must be noted that Goro and Gun form a new relationship with Tabo indirectly because of their hunger.  Inside the shop, Tampopo serves the two their long-awaited noodles (though they are disappointed).  A quarrel then arises between the two and a customer, Pisken, who continuously attempts to make Tampopo swoon with suggestions of taking her to Paris.  They exchange words, naruto is flicked, and they take it outside (Pisken has a posse). This part of the sequence showcases the making of enemies (again, indirectly) because of Goro and Gun’s hunger.  The aftermath of the sequence forms a lasting relationship between Goro, Gun, and Tampopo.  After taking a beating, the two truck drivers are nursed by Tampopo, who asks them what they thought of her ramen and ultimately asks Goro to teach her the art of ramen.  Finally, this sequence under consideration showcases hunger and a ramen shop creating new relationships (good or bad) between strangers.

Although this sequence occurs in the beginning, its importance can be found in the manner it establishes the theme of the movie.  It is dark out, and the rain is pouring; nobody is thinking about the gold and the green.  However, in this dreary setting, the hunger of two truck drivers forms these new relationships between strangers.  The sequence serves to establish that food can bring anybody together, coincidence or not, and it leaves the viewer not shocked by the rest of the content of the film, but enthused and in anticipation.  Later, the viewer observes as a couple erotically use food to build upon their relationship, with them exchanging an egg yolk back and forth between their mouths.  Student-teacher relationships are noted between the woman and her peers as she futilely tries to teach them not to slurp when eating spaghetti and in the beginning story Gun reads to Goro. 

Tampopo (1985) demonstrates that food is not only a vital part of life but unavoidable because of its necessity.  It constantly plays a role in the daily life of a person, whether through sharing a meal with another or annoying a store clerk because all one wants to do is squeeze some peaches.

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