My introduction to the “noodle Western” genre was a most satisfying one. Tampopo is especially rewarding to the viewer who’s been blessed enough to watch John Ford films, then Kurosawa’s take on them, then Sergio Leone’s take on Kurosawa’s, before finally returning back to Japan to watch a semi-truck driver with saddle burn sashay into a ramen joint and really shown them how it’s done. This cross-cultural back and forth finally settles into the comedy act that it is in the hands of Juzo Itami. In this world, food is literally everything. It is the most life-giving, morbid, romantic, sexual, gratuitous, hedonistic, criminal, and otherwise indispensable element of human existence. Nothing is taken more seriously than food, and if there isn’t a part of everyone that feels that way, then they’ve never had truly excellent cuisine. This is Ratatouille based in Japan, replacing its didactic ideology with a wonderfully ridiculous culinary phenomenology.