Blu-ray
Highly Recommended
4.5 stars
List Price
$39.95
Amazon
$25.22 (37%)
3rd Party
$25.21
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Overall Grade
4.5 stars

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The Movie Itself
5 Stars
HD Video Quality
4.5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
4 Stars
Supplements
4.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Highly Recommended

Tampopo

Street Date:
April 25th, 2017
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
May 16th, 2017
Movie Release Year:
1985
Studio:
Criterion
Length:
115 Minutes
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Tampopo was billed as a Ramen Western, playing off the name of Italy's Spaghetti Western genre. Although the film certainly does have some aspects reminiscent of a Western, particularly Shane as writer/director Juzo Itami makes clear in "The Making of Tampopo," that is too limiting of a name because Tampopo offers much more than what one might expect from a Western.

The film opens with the Man in White Suit (Kji Yakusho) dressed like a gangster in a movie theater. He brings to mind Michel from Godard's Breathless, a criminal who took inspiration from Humphrey Bogart. The Man talks directly to the camera about people eating in the movie theater, almost like a PSA, and directs his ire at the man eating chips out of a crinkly bag, threatening to kill him if he makes that noise after the movie starts. He's a hero after my own heart.

The film cuts to a tanker truck driving on a rainy night in black and white followed by a cut back to color with two men, a narrator and an older man who studied ramen for forty years, out to eat. The camera delivers close-ups to lovingly show off the ingredients. The kid wants to rush in while older man appreciates the looks and smell first. Then he details his thorough ritual of eating ramen that includes apologizing to the pork about to be eaten. The film cuts back to the tanker truck but in color, revealing that the previous scene was in a book Gun (Ken Watanabe) is reading while Goro (Tsutomu Yamazaki) drives. It's clear after these few scenes Itami will likely play with narrative as the story unfolds.

Goro and Gun stop for a bite at a ramen house run by a woman named Tampopo. They see her young son getting roughed up by fellow students and discover a bunch thugs hanging around her restaurant. Goro amusingly takes on the gang, off camera, and gets them to move on. He also discovers she is not good in the kitchen and takes on the task of educating her on how to become a real ramen cook, mirroring training regimens for soldiers.

Itami sends the plot off on tangents. There are a number of scenes involving food at a local hotel. The funniest is when a group of businessmen eat at a well-known and pricey French restaurant. After looking at the menu, one by one the men decide to have something light: sole, consomme, and a Heineken beer, but a young, clueless man decides to order a variety of fancy items, even after his superior repeatedly kicks him under the table. The sexiest involves the unexpected return of the Man in White and his girl who turn their meal into a memorable sensuous experience.

Tampopo begins a serious study, visiting other ramen shops in an attempt to surreptitiously learn their secrets. People come in to help her learn how to cook and one man helps fix up the building. More amusing food vignettes take place until the main story reaches its climax. Those already familiar with Shane know how it ends, but Tampopo is a marvelously entertaining movie that will likely leave the viewer hungry because of how joyous an experience it suggests food can be.

Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray

Tampopo (#868) comes on a 50GB Region A Blu-ray disc in their standard clear keepcase. The disc boots up directly to the menu screen without any promotional advertisements. "Ramen for the People," an essay by journalist Willy Blackmore, appears in the accompanying fold-out poster

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

According to the liner notes, "This new digital restoration was created in 4K resolution on a DFT Scanity film scanner from the 35mm original camera negative. The transfer was approved by director Juzo Itami's longtime cinematographer Yonezo Maeda. Thousands of instances of dirt, debris, scratches, splices, and warps were manually removed using MTI Film's DRS, while Digital Vision's Phoenix was used for jitter, flicker, small dirt, grain, and noise management."

The video has been given a 1080p/AVC-MPEG-4 encoded transfer displayed at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The colors come through in bright hues. A great example can be seen in the many items in the grocery store as an older woman makes her way through the aisles. The red seen in blood is rich. Whites look clean and bright. Blacks are inky and the shadows can swallow objects. Focus is typically sharp as seen in close-ups like a hand holding a stopwatch, but some close-ups of females are shot a touch softer intentionally.

While usually pleasing to the eye, the film grain gets a bit busy during opening theater scene. It's especially apparent on the green walls. On occasion, lights within the frame are too bright and bloom, diminishing the image around them. This can be seen during renovations when Goro and Gun fight over Tampopo's appearance and in Big Three Dragons' ramen shop.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The audio is available in Japanese 1.0. Also in the liner notes, "the monaural soundtrack was remastered from the 35mm original magnetic track. Clicks, thumps, hiss, hum, and crackle were manually removed using Pro Tools HD and iZotope RX."

The track sound clean, free of any signs of wear or defect. Some of the dialogue recorded in post production was obvious because of how flat it sounded. Kunihiko Murai's score came through with great clarity, as did the funny use effects for the occasional slurp of noodles. The elements blended well for a balanced mix, but nothing ever got very loud so the dynamic range is narrow.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

The Making of Tampopo (1080i, 90 min) – A feature-length making-of doc shot during production and narrated by Itami that delves deeply into the film's creation

Nobuko Miyamoto (HD, 11 min) – Recorded in 2016, the actress talks about working on Tampopo, which was directed by her husband.

Seiko Ogawa (HD, 16 min) – Also recorded in 2016, Ogawa speaks about her work on Tampopo as a food stylist, a special crew position Itami created because the food was more imoortant than to simply be classified as a prop.

The Amateur and the Craftsperson (HD, 10 min) – A 2017 video essay created by filmmakers Tony Zhou and Taylor Ramos that explores the Tampopo's themes of self-improvement and mastery of a craft.

The Perfect Bowl (HD, 22 min) – Created in 2016, it looks at Tampopo's influence on food culture with ramen experts and chefs.

Rubber Band Pistol (HD, 33 min) – This short is Itami's directorial debut.

Trailer (HD, 2 min)

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There is no exclusive content.

Final Thoughts

Criterion has delivered a feast for film fans.  Like a great ramen, Tampopo has been treated with great care in bringing it to high definition, getting the most out of its essential elements.  And the bonus features make a fantastic dessert to savor after watching the film. 

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/AVC MPEG-4

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.85:1

Audio Formats

  • Japanese LPCM Mono

Subtitles/Captions

  • English

Supplements

  • The Making of “Tampopo,” a ninety-minute documentary from 1986, narrated by director Juzo Itami
  • New interview with actor Nobuko Miyamoto
  • New interviews with ramen scholar Hiroshi Osaki; food stylist Seiko Ogawa; and American chefs Sam White, Rayneil De Guzman, Jerry Jaksich, and others
  • Rubber Band Pistol, Itami’s 1962 debut short film
  • New video essay by Tony Zhou and Taylor Ramos on the film’s themes of self-improvement and mastery of a craft
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: An essay by food and culture writer Willy Blackmore

All disc reviews at High-Def Digest are completed using the best consumer HD home theater products currently on the market. More about our gear.

Puzzled by the technical jargon in our reviews, or wondering how we assess and rate HD DVD and Blu-ray discs? Learn about our review methodology.

List Price
$39.95
Amazon
$25.22 (37%)
3rd Party
$25.21
Usually ships in 24 hours Buy Now»

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