Director: Juzo Itami
It is often thought that comedies do not cross language and cultural barriers as well as drama does. While death and grief are sad in any language, what makes one laugh is not. Thankfully this is not true for Tampopo, a Japanese film that follows a man's mission to help a widow run a successful ramen shop. Food is central to the story, and one of the first sequences is of a man teaching a younger man the correct way to eat ramen; what order to eat the noodles, pork, egg and slurp the soup. It is very funny, and unless you have just eaten, will leave you hungry.
The significance of food, and the references to American Western films is what makes this film work so well. Alongside the main narrative are little vignettes that show how food operates in other people's lives. They are by turns funny (a young couple who use food during sex); poignant (a man who chases a woman manhandling good in a grocery shop); to the tragic (a mother cooking for her family one last time). I could easily slip into the cliched use of food metaphors to describe why this film is so good, as it understands that sweetness and savouriness are both necessary for a good meal, and that getting that balance right is vital. A lot of the humour also comes from the Western elements, with Goro (Tsutomu Yamazaki) wearing the cowboy outfit for most of the film, and a hilarious stand-off he has with Pisken, a rude customer.
There is so much to enjoy about this film, and the only problem with it is that it will leave you craving ramen, a craving hard to satisfy at night where I live.