Author Archives: hananbaker

The Exotic Club

by Hanan Baker

The Exotic Club

In “The Gourmet Club” food is used to dramatize the idea of “exoticism” by acting as the item over which obsession leads to a discontent with the “normal”. One must imagine that to make the transition from normal to exotic there must be some sort of driving force. A good candidate for this driving force is the extreme. Being extreme in any sense is often dangerous. Too often what results is a burning obsession that drives one to the verge of insanity. Experiencing this extreme leads people to absurd actions just trying to repeat the experience. This is exactly the role food plays in “The Gourmet Club”

One reason that food can be seen to take this role is because at the beginning, the way the members of the gourmet club are described is blatantly labeling them as exotic. The way the author dismisses other potential problems that these members, especially count G, could have, but highlights their relationship with food makes it very difficult to focus on anything else but the food. It is how their relationship with only food is described that makes them “exotic”.

More specifically, the mechanism that the author uses to describe exoticism through food is with using exoticism itself. In a way, his writing can be seen as exotic. First, there is the most obvious technique he uses, which is intense imagery through use of over-the-top language. As a motif, this unnecessarily descriptive language appears to bring out the elaborateness of the characters, which further highlights their exoticism.

Then there is the interesting point of view that the author uses. As a reader, we are fully aware of count G’s thoughts, however, we are still somewhat isolated from him. By making it as if we are on-lookers it brings out the exoticism by making it foreign. That is, we are observing these strange behaviors, not experiencing them. Alienating this type of person is exactly what makes them “exotic”.

Another way the style of writing is “exotic” is by being irregular. The story isn’t a story in the traditional sense. It jumps around from one experience to another, such as from dream to reality to imagination in the dark. Some scenes seem to be thrown in there, not because they are necessary to further the plot, but because by breaking the traditional flow in a reading, the exoticism being describes becomes more pronounced.

Thus, overall, the characters in “The Gourmet Club” are exotic because their dangerous obsession with abnormal food experiences becomes so extreme that they can think of nothing else. This drives them to unnatural realms and that is when they become “exotic”. Food is used as the driving force of their decline to exoticism. Food is used in this way because it is the main focus of the story. The members are so obsessed with food that they eventually resort to strange, disgusting methods of enjoying it. By describing these happening in an unusual way, the author is able to emanate exoticism.

Ramenology: The Complex Science You’ve Never Heard of

japan 70 pic

In this scene, the main “cowboys” of the western-resembling film are passing the time by reading an interesting book about a ramen master and experience firsthand the author’s ramen eating lesson. The ramen master is an aged man who studied ramen for 40 years. It is immediately implied that this man must be a pioneer in the field of ramenology. Through his leading research in ramen eating, every person can now enhance their ramen eating experience. To fully grasp the significance of this man’s words, one must be a knowledgeable student of ramen. The audience is honored to be able to get even a glimpse of such ramen eating mastery.

Subconsciously the audience is manipulated in many ways in this scene; particularly by the facial expressions of the ramen eating student. His expression shows utter respect and admiration for the master. He is impressed and in awe by the revelation of true ramen eating. The director must have also felt that this man’s facial expressions were very important, because in the medium shot parts of the scene when the audience faces both men, the student’s face is almost framed by the coincidental location of the door behind him. The red frame draws our eyes in his direction instead of to the master, whose face remains blank throughout. In a similar way, the color red frames the ramen in the close-up shot of the ramen bowl. This scene uses more red than any other scene in the movie. Yellows and browns are also mixed in with the red. Yellow and red are typically more arousing colors. It takes the calm, almost meditation-like scene and gives it a different effect. The audience becomes slightly nervous as they focus intently on what is happening.  The switching between the medium shot and close-up shots of each of their faces also profoundly influences the audience’s emotions. It causes us to quiet down as we hone in on the ramen master’s slightly whispered words of wisdom.

Without this scene, the film would go from the odd, almost awkward scene where the guy talks to the audience to the scene where Goro shows up at the ramen shop, gets in a fight, and then agrees to help Tanpopo better her ramen. In this sequence of events, would the audience really understand the significance of the ramen? Would the audience know that food is the center of this wacky, unstructured movie? The audience would be under the impression that the movie was about self-improvement. Also, more subtly, the audience begins with a certain impression of the characters in each scene. By the end of the scene, however, that impression is shattered. We are shown that Impressions change. This is especially highlighted in the scene with the ramen master. The impression of him changes multiple times throughout the scene. Without this memorable scene, the initial mood of the film would be completely different and the excursions to unrelated places would be strange and unexpected.  (495 Words)