The Power of Food

In the 1985 film, Tampopo, directed by Itami Juzo, food is conveyed in a way that surpasses its means as sustenance and nutrition.  In between the main story that concerns the protagonist, Tampopo’s attempt to revitalize her run down ramen shop with the help of new found friends, Itami Juzo includes very integral cut scenes that display more than just the Tampopo’s journey.  The perfectly timed cut scenes that Juzo includes in the film, reflects his view that food is a very powerful force in connecting people, communities, and families.

In one scene that exemplifies Juzo’s position that food is a bonding force in the lives of numerous people is the scene where a man rushes home to his family on a dark, rainy night.  The scene begins as the man runs swiftly through the wet city and arrives at his house, only to find a tragic and horrific sight.  The man’s wife is dying on the floor, while a doctor and nurse attend to her, and even their three children watch in horror.  In a frantic and scared state, the man shakes his wife as he commands her to make food for dinner.  The motionless and pale wife then rises to cook a meal for her husband and three children.  The only reason that the wife rises after her husband commands her to cook is because to her it is the most significant and crucial role in her life.  Her cooking is what joins their family together and what connects them as one.  The mother’s cooking is the perfect and seemingly only way that she can express her love for her family in her final hours. In fact, as the sickly wife prepares the food, her concerned husband hears a train nearby and the camera suddenly cuts to the image of the passing train.  The presentation of the train symbolizes the saddening truth that like the train, the wife is nearing her final stop.  Even though the wife knows she is near her death, in a serene close up she smiles upon viewing her family enjoy her food at the dinner table.  This all leads up to the most important shot in the film where the father urges his crying children to continue to eat the meal that the wife had prepared, despite the fact that the doctor just announced her dead in her collapsed position in front of the family.

tampopo

‘A Family’s Final Meal’

This long shot is important because it presents Juzo’s sensibility that the food bonds people with more strength than any other aspect of life.  The only reason why the father urged his children to continue to eat the food was because it was the last meal they would ever eat from their mother, and in a further sense, it was the last time that the family would be able to connect with their mother and feel her love as they were essentially taking in the mother’s spirit through the simple yet profound bowl of rice.

Throughout the film, Juzo touches on the many different ways that food plays in our daily lives, but the most paramount role that food has is its ability to bring people together and form everlasting bonds.

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