Tampopo: Dandelion

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ummer is in full force, and even though I have to teach, I have a little more time than I usually do during the regular school year, so this is the time when I catch up on movie watching.

whonose: And whats your favourite movie? And favourite Japanese movie?

My favorite all-time movie is also my favorite Japanese movie: Tampopo.

I must have seen this movie at ten, eleven… okay, at least 25 times. And each time I see it, I find something that I have yet to notice. The story line is relatively simple. Leading man arrives in town with faithful sidekick and helps damsel save her livelihood as a ramen noodle shop owner. It is, ultimately, in the details that this movie truly shines. Food is life in Japan (as anywhere else), and it affects every aspect of it. Is it odd for the gangster character to introduce the movie by talking to us, the audience, in an attempt to make us a participant in the art? Is it a coincidence that an old master instructs in the complex subtleties of eating noodles at the beginning of the movie, and a baby reflects the simplicity of enjoying the most basic of nourishment sources at the end? The seemingly unrelated interludes/vignettes also offer not-too-subtle hints of Japanese culture: group conformity (business lunch/spaghetti etiquette), the marginalized/disenfranchised (elderly, criminal, woman/mother), and of course sex (raw egg, oyster, and dentist office). The frequent appearance of trains/monorail in the movies has caught my attention, but it simply teases me as I try unsuccessfully to grasp what it might suggest. Of course, none of this is essential to enjoying the movie. It is more than enough to just sit back and savor the sights and sounds of delicious food being prepared and eaten.

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