A lone truckdriver Goro (Yamazaki) arrives in a small town and stops for noodles. They’re not great and his remarks about the noodle bar’s mediocrity triggers a brawl with locals. A thoroughly thrashed Goro is invited by the restaurant hostess, Tampopo (Miyamoto, Itami’s wife), to help her make her noodles the best in town. Goro’s seeming soft spot for the underdog allows him to agree and he assembles a band of helpers. If the storyline so far reminds you of a western, if you’re thinking of Alan Ladd, Clint Eastwood, or Toshiro Mifune/Yul Bryner you’re not wrong. Itami called his film a noodle western’.
What he created is a paean to Japanese food, obsession and sensuality. It’s a lovingly crafted, satirical comedy involving a plot of recipe intrigue, cooking clashes and a diverse range of noodle gourmet characters. From the simplest of premises comes a film that remains in the top 10 Japanese comedy films to this day.
It was the first film I’d ever seen that seemed to want to do something more than stick to one linear story, that played with the language of film as it tried to do it all: to be a comedy and a drama, to show death, sex and food all together – sometimes in the same scene.’ Richard Vine, The Guardian.