Japanese love their food probably as much as any other nation does, but the way they
prepare it brings to mind a very solemn and breathtaking ritual, during which
everything must be arranged in a specifically detailed order so as not to
disrupt the whole laborious process. Japanese people treat food exactly like
art as they create many gorgeous-looking, mouthwatering dishes that taste even
better than they look. It's an undisputable fact that Japan has one of the best
cuisines in the world and its chefs are among the most sought-after.
Japanese films only confirm the fact that citizens of this country take great pleasure
both in cooking and in promoting their traditional dishes. Whether it's a comedy-horror
such as Dead Sushi, anime like Spirited Away, western like Tanpopo, there's
almost always even a smallest part of the film that concentrates on the act of
gazing at or savoring delicious Japanese meals. While feature films have their
special way of dealing with cookery, documentary filmmakers love to portray food
pioneers from the Land of the Rising Sun, those veterans who not only go down
in history as game changers in their specific profession, but also devote their
lives to teaching people how to change the way we perceive cooking. Two years
ago whole world watched with amazement and drooled at the sight of all the
wondrous creations of one Jiro Ono, an uncontested sushi master chief from
Tokyo in the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
What Jiro did for sushi Yoshiko Tatsumi does for soups in Drops of Heaven. While the whole premise might sounds rather simple at first, the passion with which she makes them is truly admirable
and inspiring. Taking after her mom, Tatsumi decided to spend her life
experimenting with different kinds of food, writing books about them, and
teaching a soup-cooking class at her home in Kamakura. Though the documentary
focuses mostly on Tatsumi making scrumptious soups and giving cooking advice
during classes, it's also a wonderfully enjoyable and heartwarming exploration
of her rich life as a scholar, caretaker, and a person who tends to find beauty
wherever she can. There's a really fascinating story in the movie, a heartfelt
and touching one, all the more pleasurable due to a huge number of cut scenes
showing all of Tatsumi's perfectly prepared dishes, depicted as genuine art
Through the rich and vivid portrayal of Tatsumi and her interaction with various
characters the narrative argues that Tatsumi's so-called 'soup of life' is able
to bring happiness to other people's lives. Serving it's purpose as a somewhat meaningful cliché the statement that the film makes is clear and convincing - even the smallest gesture, like preparing a meal for a person in
need, can be a sincere act of kindness.
The act of soup making is only a bridge
between Tatsumi's voyage into the world of food and a number of subplots
relating to the post-Fukushima situation in Japan. It's as if though her
signature dish was a sort of magical force that propelled a significant number
of the society to help those in need.
While the lighthearted atmosphere of the film and its slight repetitiveness might
discourage some viewers, there's not doubt that the melancholic and very tranquil
rendering of the story is a perfect representation of the way the main
character deals with food on a daily basis. She's seriously immersed in the
process, and the tranquility that beams from her creates a harmony that makes Drops of Heaven and Japanese cuisine in particular even more inviting and interesting.
Fun fact: After the screening Mrs Mayumi Yanai, the producer of the film, handed out free 'soup of life' recipes. I'm ready to try to make it myself, and if you ever get a chance to get the recipe too I encourage you to give it a try!
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