“First contemplate the ramen.” An elderly culinary master imparts these sage words to his eager young disciple at the beginning of Jûzô Itami’s breakneck 1985 comedy Tampopo, being re-released thanks to Janus Films. Cooking and consuming good food demands patience, and it’s a lesson this “noodle western” will live by throughout.
When truck drivers Gorô (Tsutomu Yamazaki) and Gun (Ken Watanabe) get hungry on their way to Tokyo, they stop for a warm meal at a roadside ramen joint run by Tampopo (Nobuko Miyamoto). They are met with a ramshackle interior, imposing thugs and lukewarm broth. Bad first impressions are a fact of life, but Itami sees them as inspiration for something new rather than the end of a story.
The two men decide to help Tampopo perfect her ramen recipe and open a successful restaurant. This includes military-style cooking drills, competitor reconnaissance and physical training. All the while, Itami’s focus drifts away to other stories that consider the intricate psychological overlap between food, passion food and technique.
Many of these vignettes are oddly compelling. Corporate copycats are suitably upstaged when their well-informed intern orders from a fancy seafood menu. Kôji Yakusho’s charming gangster in a white suit reinvents food foreplay with his mistress. The film’s most beautiful moment comes when a horde of foodie vagabonds sing their mentor a farewell song, capturing the insurmountable respect woven into student/teacher dynamics.
With its stylized irises and playfully exaggerated performances, Tampopo strikes the perfect balance between slapstick homage and tender throwback. Itami sees possibility in every corner of the frame, affectionately foraging for new faces and food to illuminate. There’s a spiritual quality to its Zen view of artistry, and something biblical about its epic downpours.
Tampopo, which opens Friday, Nov. 18, at the Ken Cinema, believes there are no shortcuts in art making. It takes a lot of experimentation and failure to become a master, whether you like it or not.
Bleed for This : America’s most unappealing actor Miles Teller headlines this sports biopic about world champion boxer Vinny Pazienza, who made an incredible comeback after being nearly fatally injured in a car accident.
Elle : In Paul Verhoeven’s latest brilliant subversion, a video game designer (Isabelle Huppert) dictates the terms of her recovery and revenge after being violently raped. Opens Friday, Nov. 18, at Angelika Carmel Mountain Cinemas.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them : A prequel to the Harry Potter story, this fantasy follows an adventurous New York City writer who gets caught up in a community of wizards and witches.
Hieronymus Bosch: Touched by the Devil : Filmmaker Pieter van Huystee examines the life, work and fantastic imagery of 15th-century painter Hieronymus Bosch. Opens on Friday, Nov. 18 and screens through Thursday, Nov. 24 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Kiki, El Amor Se Hace : Five stories of love and lust unfold in this steamy sex comedy from Spain. Opens on Friday, Nov. 18 and screens through Thursday, Nov. 24 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
Nocturnal Animals : Tom Ford (A Single Man) directs this stylish thriller about an art gallery owner (Amy Adams) is tormented by the violent symbolism of a book written by her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal).
Tampopo : Jûzô Itami’s’s brilliant 1985 “noodle western” follows a pair of truck drivers who school a roadside chef on how to make great ramen. Opens Friday, Nov. 18 and screens through Thursday, Nov. 24.
The Edge of Seventeen : A moody teenager (Hailee Steinfeld) finds high school even more unbearable after her best friend and brother begin dating.
Under the Shadow : In this Iranian thriller from director Babak Anvari, a woman believes supernatural forces cause her daughter to begin acting erratically after a missile strikes her Tehran apartment. Opens on Friday, Nov. 18, and screens through Thursday, Nov. 24 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
ONE TIME ONLY
Jerry Maguire : Tom Cruise plays an arrogant super agent who leaves his life of privilege behind when he meets a charming young woman (Renee Zellweger) with a precious little boy. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
A Bigger Splash : Tilda Swinton, Mattias Schoenaerts, and Ralph Fiennes headline this drama about an aging rock star who gets a surprise visit from an old friend while vacationing in coastal Italy. Screens at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Nov. 18 and 19, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Gravity : Sandra Bullock’s marooned astronaut does everything she can to get back to Earth in one piece. Alfonso Cuaron’s great sci-fi will be presented in 3-D. Screens at 7:15 p.m. Monday, Nov. 21, at Arclight La Jolla Cinemas in UTC.
Sleepless in Seattle : Fall in love all over again with this great Nora Ephron film about a Northwest widower (Tom Hanks) who becomes a sensation while talking about his personal life on a national radio show, attracting the attention of a dissatisfied East coast journalist (Meg Ryan). Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 22, at Oceana Coastal Kitchen in San Diego.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles : All Steve Martin wants to do is get home for the holidays, but John Candy’s got other plans. Screens at 8 pm. Wednesday, Nov. 23, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.