Time for dinner

Contributor; Antwerp, Belgium
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Time for dinner
For this week's TOM, let's talk ... food. More specifically, food in Asian films. Food isn't a particularly uncommon subject in cinema, but Asian films seem to display a special love for all that can be gobbled down. Maybe it's because I'm not impartial myself to a good bowl of noodles, but I still think there's more than meets the eye.

Some Asian films are entirely revolving around food (think Tampopo or God of Cookery), others use it to creep out its audience (Meat Grinder, Old Boy or Dumplings spring to mind). But the most notable scenes are usually found in films not dedicated to food. They can be seen in dramas or action films (or any other genre really), where they get a special place to give the audience a little time off (and a grinding appetite).

There are many reasons to appreciate a movie, ranging from plot, actors, visual allure and of course the soundtrack. Then there are some more obscure reasons. And for some reason, I like food scenes, just as I like films with multiple spoken languages and films about solitude. I guess (and hope) everyone has these kind of oddities.

The following list contains my favourite Asian food scenes. I had to narrow it down a little to five, so honourable mentions to Tokyo.sora, Neko Ramen Taisho, the films I mentioned previously and a whole range of others I forgot. Here's the list!

1. Avalon

Most people will probably remember the scene where Stunner gobbles down a can of brown sludge and asks for seconds. It's a cool scene, but not exactly appetite-enhancing. Avalon is usually described as cold and lacking emotion, but there is one scene where Oshii clearly penetrates its hardened sepia exterior. The scene where Ash cooks dinner for her dog has actual colour seeping through the monochrome haze, and set to the superb score of Kawai it creates such a sense of bliss that easily qualifies as one of my favourite scenes ever.

2. Dead Or Alive 2
I'm sure Miike will end his career as the director who did everything ... quite literally. The food angle he has already covered. Looking for my favourite Miike food moment, I always seem to recall the scenes between Aikawa and Takeuchi in Dead Or Alive 2. Arguably the best in the trilogy, with an almost Kitano-like middle section, Aikawa and Takeuchi take the time to consider the ways to eat ramen noodles. With almost religious dedication the perfect way to eat a bowl of ramen is discussed, resulting is some funny moments between the two.

3. The Wayward Cloud
The Wayward Cloud has some flashy food scenes, mostly involving watermelons. While they are definitely cool and memorable, there's one scene that stuck with me even more. It's the little cooking scene where the crabs escape and some strange stuff is thrown in a pan. Never really knew what it is exactly they throw in, but it seems to have a life of its own. How silly it might sound, I'm always captivated by that scene whenever I see the film.Very cool scene, very gentle, pretty funny and absolutely tasty looking.

4. Kamome Diner
The film that sparked the idea for posting this TOM. Since it is a film about a little blossoming Japanese diner in Helsinki, it's obvious there's food involved. Plenty of yummy edibles pass the camera, but there is one scene in particular that highlights the Asian love for well-made food. A five-minute explanation, including cheering chants, for making the best pot of coffee possible. By the end of it, there's this huge craving that simply had to be satisfied. Lovely stuff.

5. The Amazing Lives of the Fast Food Grifters
The only film in the list wholly dedicated to food. A hilariously dry fake documentary about a rare breed of Japanese hero. The fast food grifters are pros escaping noodle stands without paying. This overly long animated string of pictures is really the best example of how seriously food is taken over there. Definitely not for everyone, but by the end of it, I was craving for a bowl of damping hot noodles myself. I'm sorry for posting two Oshii films (again), but I really couldn't leave either one out.

So what are your favourite food scenes. You shouldn't really limit yourself to Asian cinema, that's just my little thing. Bring on the recommendations!
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PaulApril 11, 2010 11:36 AM

Itami Juzo's film Tampopo is a fantastic example of Asian cinema, and it's entirely about food. The primary story is one in which two truck drivers help a woman to create the world's greatest bowl of ramen, and they do this by consulting (often bizarre) experts on the broth and noodles. There are a number of smaller stories involved, though, ranging from a mobster's hatred of noisy food in movie theaters to an elderly man's dangerous love of mochi, a choke-friendly sticky rice treat that has proven fatal to dozens of Japanese people each year. Highly recommended.

I don't think I've posted here before, but I follow Twitch regularly, and I really appreciate your efforts to provide such a great site!

Ard VijnApril 11, 2010 3:43 PM

Three films immediately popped into my mind upon reading the topic:
Eat, drink, man, woman,
and Dumplings.
Amusingly enough none of these showed up!

Nevertheless again an excellent list, and hey, every list could use two Oshii films in it...

Kurt HalfyardApril 11, 2010 7:24 PM

The much more GROSS version of this (say part one of food related T-O-Ms) can be found here: http://twitchfilm.net/featured/2008/06/twitch-o-meter-eat-to-live-dont-live-to-eat-bon-appetit.php

Note the first commenter in that piece, and note what film he mentions!

Kurt HalfyardApril 11, 2010 7:25 PM

Also, I cannot remember which PANG brothers movie it was (Diary perhaps?) but it had a stand-out cooking sequence in it.

Dumplings is my favourite Asian Horror picture (or at least tied with A Tale of Two Sisters)

and Ang Lee's EAT, DRINK, MAN, WOMAN is a pretty mouth watering family confection.

sitenoiseApril 12, 2010 1:45 AM

Funny, my pet peeve is food scenes. Not the food, actually, but people eating. I just hate that! Especially if they make noise. Eeew!

How about 301/302?

Niels MatthijsApril 12, 2010 5:42 AM

Kurt: hah! You have a good memory :)
As for Diary, I remember a pretty cool/creepy table scene, just don't remember any food there. Time to watch it again I think :)

Eat, Drink, Man, Woman is one of the films that slipped past me, though I'm sure it wouldn't have made the final list. It's a yummy film, but no real stand-out food scene that would better the ones I mentioned.

Tampopo is of course the most obvious candidate, that's why I mentioned it in the intro, but didn't include it in the actual list.

Kurt HalfyardApril 12, 2010 12:09 PM

Then absolutely do not check out the opening minutes of Van Dieman's land, sitenoise!

But to those who love the 'vulgarity' of eating in closeup, you could do worse than the opening scenes of Ravenous, Duck You Sucker, and Van Dieman's Land, all of which are very 'organic' and 'audible.'