The greatest film ever made about ramen is still a classic

Food-porn movies are more popular than ever, so it’s high time for Jûzô Itami’s 1985 classic Tampopo to return in a shiny new restoration, and the film has lost none of its silly charm in the ensuing decades. Tampopo (Tsutomu Yamazaki) is a young widow whose ramen shop isn’t doing so well, so she enlists the aid of truck-driver noodle experts Gorô (Tsutomu Yamazaki) and Gun (Ken Watanabe, in one of his first film roles) to help her improve her recipe. That sounds like dozens of other foodie movies since, but there’s so much more going on in this picture, which flits from character to character and location to location seemingly on a whim, some given more weight than others but all adding up to a very unique flavor. Tampopo the movie is very aware that it’s a movie, and while it primarily plays with Western tropes — Gorô is coded as a cowboy — it also dabbles in other genres, including checking in occasionally with a gangster (Kôji Yakusho) and his mistress (Fukumi Kuroda), for whom food and sex are intertwined. Three-decade-old trigger warning: A turtle gets slaughtered and drained of its blood onscreen. It’s unpleasant to watch, but Tampopo comes close to successfully arguing that it’s for a good cause.

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