Before there was 'Big Night,' 'Babette’s Feast,' or 'Jiro Dreams of Sushi'—or 'MasterChef' or 'Iron Chef' or 'Top Chef,' for that matter—there was 'Tampopo.'
Courtesy of Janus Films and the Criterion Collection.
Before there was Big Night, Babette's Feast, or Jiro Dreams of Sushi—or MasterChef or Iron Chef or Top Chef, for that matter—there was Tampopo.
The 1985 film, written and directed by Juzo Itami, is about a woman who operates a ramen joint that's just meh, until a truck driver-slash-ramen sage turns up to show her how to turn the joint into a mecca dedicated to the art of noodle-soup making. Roger Ebert said that "makes noodles… more interesting than sex and violence"; the film has been aptly dubbed a "ramen Western." Tampopo long ago indoctrinated American audiences into the intricacies of ramen and introduced us to food-as-film in a totally original way.
Now, a new edition of the movie—restored in 4K from the original film negative—is premiering in New York City today and in LA next week, followed by a nationwide roll out.
Not to be missed is the famous scene in which a noodle master painstakingly describes the ritual of eating ramen in tones not often heard outside of a place of religious worship. But the film is not just a paean to ramen—instead, it is filled with quirky vignettes, oddball subplots, and erotic side stories, all of which undoubtedly contributed to its 100 percent rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes.
The new version of the classic, which was restored by Janus Films, "corrects the color balance of Masaki Tamura's exquisite shading, cleans up a muddy soundtrack and adds new subtitles that are more descriptive and precise," according to The Village Voice.
If you're a fan of ramen, Japanese films, humor, sex, or Westerns—and that pretty much covers all of us—you need to see Tampopo.