Tampopo is a 1985 Japanese film called タンポポ or Tanpopo which translates to dandelion. It's Jûzô Itami's second film as a director. He wrote the screenplay and his wife Nobuko Miyamoto plays Tampopo. It was marketed as a noodle western, a gag on spaghetti western, and it's mostly about food. Specifically the bowls of ramen that are sold in countless little shops around Japan. I'm not a fan of ramen as a soup, occasionally I'll make the noodles and spoon stirfry over them. I remember seeing the movie in the theater in the late 1980's and really enjoying it. It was Tampopo that put Itami on the movie map in the US, his first movie, The Funeral, didn't make as big a splash here. The Uptown Theater used to run a lot of Japanese films back in the 1980's and I went to a lot of them. It was one of the few places that you could see foreign films before home video started delivering a much wider variety of product. Now you can find just about anything with the click of a mouse.
Tsutomu Yamazaki plays Goro, a truck driver with a nice hat. He and his co-worker Gun are driving through the rain. Gun is reading from a book about noodles. They get a bit hungry and stop for food at a shabby noodle shop run by Tampopo. The noodles aren't very good and Goro gets in a fight with some drunken guys.
He wakes up the next day in the little apartment behind the noodle shop. Tampopo is a widower with a young son. She's not doing well in the shop and she asks Goro to help her make better noodles. He agrees and they set off on a tour of noodle shops. Goro recruits a former master cook and a chauffeur to help. Somewhere along here there's a scene with a turtle being killed and drained of blood. Not the thing everyone wants to see. Just a head's up. I usually fast forward through that part.
Rikiya Yasuoka plays the man Goro got into a fight with the first night they visited the noodle shop. He comes around and tells Goro that he was too drunk to call off his friends, the ones who helped him in the fight. Goro and Rikiya fight to a draw and become buddies. That scene always reminded me of the fight in The Quiet Man. Turns out Rikiya is a contractor. He agrees to make over the restaurant and get paid later. He also supplies a good noodle recipe that gives Tampopo's noodles a bit of an edge.
The place looks great, huh. Goro and his helpers slip out of the shop as it fills up. Tampopo serves her customers and Goro and Gun drive off with Rikiya running alongside the truck. Kind of like the end of Shane but with more noodles. There's a nice bit of humor along the way to soup knowledge and we meet a lot of entertaining characters in the main story thread and the short bits that support it. I still don't want a bowl of ramen when I see the movie but that's just me. I'm not a big soup as food fan.
It score's a 7.9 on the IMDb and it's even better than that. I think it's nearly perfect, at least, from the POV of what I want in a movie. It's entertaining and highly accessible, even to non-Japanese audiences. Everyone gets the love of food. The only complaints I read on the Internet are for the tiny bit of nudity and the turtle scene. I don't mind the nudity, it's just a nipple. The scene is a bit erotic, mixing food and sex, but there's more overt sexuality in the oyster scene with the pretty young oyster diver. The turtle scene gets mentioned over the human violence in the movie. A guy does get shot in one of the short pieces that support the main story. His dying words are about food he will miss. A lot of people aren't that keen on seeing animals slaughtered but they don't seem to mind the human carnage. Funny old people, huh. Still, most people won't go wrong with seeing this film. Too bad it's harder to get than most.