This nicely packed special editionís supplements first start with a 1986 made-for-television documentary about the making of Tampopo, running an unexpected 90-minutes. Though it has some narration and has a few interviews scattered about it offers more behind-the-scenes footage that simply observes Itami directing a number of key scenes, which are presented here more or less in the order they appear in the film. We also see the work that goes into getting the look of the film, from setting and costume design to selecting the bowls and cutlery that will appear in the film. We even get to see food stylist Seiko Ogawa prepare the ramen in specific ways to get the look that Itami wants. The documentary also has some amusing side moments, like an ad involving a swirly cake that apparently helped get the film made. I was expecting something more along the lines of a promotional piece but itís actually quite a lot more than that, providing an entertaining look into the making of the film.
We then get two new interviews recorded for this release: one with Juzo Itamiís widow, actor Nobuko Miyamoto (who plays Tampopo in the film), and then food stylist Seiko Ogawa. Miyamoto talks a lot about her husband putting this film together and directing her before talking about the filmís initial release and reception in the west, as well as how pleased she is the film is receiving a new 4K restoration.
Itís an affectionate discussion but I admit to getting more of a kick out of the Ogawa interview, offering a perspective on a subject I really donít think too much about, that of preparing food to be seen on a film screen. Ogawa had to go through various variations of ramen to get the appropriate looks for each scene (even making ramen that looked unappealing) and she also helped out with other foods that appear in the film, even having to make fake Peking duck for an actor who didnít eat poultry. She was also in charge of locating the perfect egg yolk for theÖ what would you call it? The egg yolk kissing scene? It all looks so effortless on screen that I was taken aback by the amount of work that went into preparing the food for the film. Itís a fun interview.
The interviews run about 11-minutes and 14-minutes respectively.
The Amateur and the Craftsperson is a 10-minute video essay by filmmakers Tony Zhou and Taylor Ramos. The thesis to the piece revolves around the film being about amateurs, learning to appreciate things, and the road to becoming a professional or craftsperson (or the road to ďself-improvementĒ). It looks at the main narrative and then the side stories (or ďside dishesĒ) for evidence of these themes. Even if there isnít anything all that revelatory in the feature itís still well put together and enjoyable enough.
With the next feature, The Perfect Bowl, Criterion gathers together ramen expert Hiroshi Oosaki and ramen chefs Ivan Orkin, Jerry Jaksich, Sam White, and Rayneil de Guzman to talk a little about the film and the intricacies of the central dish. Listening to them recall seeing the film for the first time (White having a very personal connection to the film since he was going through something similar) is wonderful but the real joy to this feature is when everyone just talks about ramen. Oosaki offers more of a historical background to the food and goes over some variations, while amusingly explains how he likes to eat it, making sure to point out there is no wrong way to eat it (as suggested by one character in the film). Jaksich, White, and de Guzman own their own ramen shop and here they talk about always trying to perfect their craft, mentioning the little twists they like to do, while Orkin (who owns a shop in New York) talks the same while also pushing the idea that cheap food can be better than the most expensive dishes (he laments about the many times he had spent a fortune at fancy restaurants only to feel he probably would have been happier with a street vendor hot dog). And, getting back to the film, the chefs also talk a little about how the film has influenced them in their creations. Itís a bit of an odd feature I guess when taken at face value (itís a bunch of people talking about noodles in broth), but it gets into the passion present in the film, giving us five hardcore ramen enthusiasts explaining the importance of the dish while also offering some history behind the dish. Itís a really great feature and may edge out the others as my favourite one on here. It runs about 22-minutes.
We then get Itamiís debut 32-minute short film, Rubber Band Pistorl. Itís a hard film to explain, and the best I can probably do is just say it follows a group of friends over the course of a couple of days, but it shows some early traces of what Itami would bring to Tampopo. Itís an off-kilter film wearing its New Wave influences on its sleeve, and is made up of a series of vignettes with the filmís characters jumping from one situation to another without the scenarios feeling to be all that connected. It may be a bit rough but it is paced nicely and I chuckled a few times once I got into the groove of it.
The image for the short looks fine, though it looks to come from a standard-definition source (either that or the 16mm film didnít translate to digital very well).
The disc then closes with the Janus theatrical trailer touting the new 4K restoration. We then get a poster insert (with artwork from the Janus poster on the reverse side) featuring an essay by Willy Blackmore on the filmís blending of genres and the filmís cross-culture appeal.
They include some of the usual expected material in interviews and a documentary (which are all good) but the release shines thanks to the more unusual supplements, like the piece about ramen and the interview exposing the work of an on-set food stylist. 8/10