Search the Cinema Head Cheese Archives!

May 4, 2018

Movie Review: "Ramen Heads" (2017; Netzgen Productions)



…yeah, I know what y’all are probably thinking. “Ramen?? Really!! A movie about ramen??” From a ‘domestic shores’ point of view…yeah, one might suppose that the subject of ramen…for most herein, an ‘instant’ vision of one’s grocery store isle, packed and stacked with ordinary ‘three, sometimes four for a dollar’ packaged instant soup noodles, each accompanied by a foil packet of heavily salted flavor powder, comes to mind (…and oh, how the respected nutritionist soothsayers just love to emote finger-shaking ‘shame-shame’ verbiage of dissuasion, as far as the gross dietary detriment of consuming this simple, albeit wholly processed food staple)…might seem merely that…'simple', by definition…

…OK, fair enough, right??

…with right hand raised in absolute swear-mode…left hand on the heart…yes, this reviewer shamelessly, yes proudly proclaims and admits…at least, from a urban ‘big city white boy’ perspective…”I am a Ramen Head!!” Been known to throw caution to the wind…boil up two, even three of those square-ish packages at a time…liberally seasoning those bad boys up, and slurping those puppies down like a human Hoover (…and ‘slurping’ is most assuredly the mindfully prerequisite and applicable term when eating ramen, as will be reiterated later). Given a little more creative motivation, present company even goes so far as deliciously supplementing the noodles with chicken, pork, egg, cabbage, cilantro, parsley, onion, bean sprouts, bamboo, or whatever might trip my (amateur culinary) tibia at the time…

…cheaper than movie popcorn, and…well, let’s just say what true ‘ramen heads’ might consider ‘outright disrespectful’ to the ‘wholly sacred’ foodstuff…hell, this kid’ll even buy up half a dozen ramen packages, pulverized the lot dry, fill a bowl, sprinkle a little butter & seasoning salt…and Presto!! As ‘70’s Saturday Morning Timer used to say, “…hey, stacks of snacks!!”…

…and of course, on the rare and oh-so few & far-between occasions, given the dotted availability of such gourmet locations (…in the case of yours truly, the greater San Diego area…this noodle-crazed reviewer will effect eager patronage at some of the finest ramen shop establishments, where the noodles are rendered freshly cut, lathered generously amidst a tantalizing, piping hot bowl of broth, and fettered with an eclectic assortment of equally delicious condiments…'oh yum' hardly describes the experience, (I) can tell you...

…ahem!! In once again proclaiming, with arms reared back, chest out and chin up, “I am a Ramen Head!!!” Uh, that is…little realizing just how wretchedly low such a boast by this reviewer lacky invariably suggests, as you will soon see…not to mention the unimagined heights (he’s) hardly attained, nor truly worthy of, especially after having seen…

…the film ”Ramen Heads”…which is, without a doubt, is a lovingly dedicated, descriptive and amusing salute to something more akin to what might be suggested as a focused spotlight on an artful craft, rather than mere culinary preparation and presentation. This quaint and quirky documentary opens on a rousing celebratory note, with adoring recognition by both peers and subordinates, of master ramen chef Osamu Tomita, who as we first meet him scrambling to his remote food establishment to open for the day, instead finds himself the unexpected recipient of the honored and coveted ‘Best Ramen in Japan’ trophy for an unprecedented fourth year in a row. But such an honored and respected prize hardly comes easy…
…as our faceless narrator…by this time, instilling fascination, intrigue, curiosity, and at times, a measure of unnerving visuals into the proceedings…delving further into the ‘artistry’ of how Osamu works his ‘magic’…examining why the surrounding populous…indeed at times, even persons nationwide…line up for hours, patiently and anticipatorily aside his shop, in order to secure a hallowed place…so much so in fact, that Osamu actually limits the number of people he serves each day, with an amiable, albeit structured reservation system that sometimes must be rendered and filled days in advance…we instantly grasp the devoted and loving passion in which Osamu exudes…the tireless work and meticulous detail, in which he engages, in preparing his ramen dishes…not to mention the harsh, unwavering demands which he instills upon his equally impassioned, though often frustrated apprentices…the latter of whom, to the film’s inquisitive interviewer, candidly muse upon their utmost respect and reverence for Osamu, despite their frustrations over his stern and insistent demands of them. Make no mistake…they know that they are there to learn, and yet, Osamu teaches them nothing; in addition, and in tandem to their regimented shop duties, they are instead pressed to look over Osamu’s shoulder whenever possible…learn by example, rather than formal instruction…the way that Osamu himself was ‘taught’, as he later reveals…
…but all of this personal unbridled passion, obsession, work and resulting reverence is clearly not the main reason why we’re here, ladies and gentlemen…it’s that oh-so delicious ramen…the invariable culmination of Osamu’s life-devoted trade…and that’s where all that ‘passion, obsession, work’ as well as the evidence of reason for the aforementioned reverence…that’s where everything come together, and is reflected in a bleached & scalding steam of insatiable flavor, which you…my fine folk…may well quite literally feel, as well as taste, as you look on, herein…
…what is it that they say?? Something about ‘a watched pot never boils’?? Not in Osamu Tomita’s world, as he unwaveringly fixes his gaze upon each and every simmering pot of soup broth…himself shown as keen on the exact moments to stir up the brownish, gravy-like concoction…knowing all too well, to an exacting degree, that mere seconds of overheat…mere seconds of under-cook…could mean a significant loss of flavor. Even the rather eclectic variety of ingredients…meats, vegetables, seasonings…is measured in with merely Osamu’s watchful eyes…not to mention, his mindful gauge, which is seen to be as exacting, if not more so, than any measuring cup standard. Our narrator in these proceedings, provides a slightly startling, and in the onset, first-impressionably unappealing muse in describing the broth preparation, as if being described by someone totally not privy of this culinary ritual (…which of course, may well include most of us viewers…i.e., stirring the broth described as ‘stirring a brown sludge’…or photographing Osamu stirring a large pot of ingredients with a large wooden spoon…and with a mere shoulder shrug, spooning up the wayward pig’s hoof or two…or more startling, a boiled pig’s head, etc.). But familiar or not…unnerving or not…make no mistake…it is the irresistible and tantalizing culmination of all this preparation, which Osamu focuses his invariable attention to…
…from the meticulous and tireless rendering of the broth, we then see Osamu move onto the soup namesake component…the ramen noodles themselves. And with no less attention, Osamu proudly, albeit with an unswerving focus, demonstrates equal attention in his handmade noodles (…a thicker and more springy brand of noodles, used in creating Osamu’s specialty, Tsukemen ramen…a delectable noodles dish, whereby the noodles and broth are served separately, and the noodles are subsequently dipped into the broth, before consumption…that is, before slurping them up, which it the most ideal, and hardly-considered-crude method of consumption, as one might witness, herein)…the molding, the rolling, the kneading, the cutting, the preparing, the seasoning, as well as the serving of each and every bowl…with a lovingly hands-on preparation, as carefully and masterfully as one might expect of a master sculptor…molding, chipping away at, and giving distinct character to a featureless slab of wet clay. For Osamu, he pridefully elates his strict standard and unique elation of satisfaction in his noodles, suggesting that they should ‘pop’ tastefully in one’s pallet, like firecrackers…
…considering all this hard work and dedication, one might suggest the old adage of ‘all work and no play, etc.’, as far as contemplating what Osamu might engage in his off time. Well, ‘dull’ hardly describes this master chef’s recreational fervor, in seeing him strut out in what most might consider, a measure of…well, rather unexpected and unconventional style and fashion…and conduct surprise visits to neighboring ramen chef establishments, where he’s welcomed with an amassed reverence and delight, by the self-same chefs, aspiring to be equal to the task, and whom we soon become privy to, as far as each of their own unique, individual and equally dedicated style of deliciously favored ramen dishes…
…with all of this dedicated methodology and devotion to craft, having culminated herein with a great number of lovingly satisfied and elated customers…many of whom have traveled from the four corners of the world to exclusively partake in Osamu’s delicious culinary greatness…one has to invariably ask, as a final note…what exactly does one taker away, in viewing this documentary…in viewing “Ramen Heads”?? Well, barring the inescapably instilled desire to immediately afterwards seek out one’s local specialty ramen shop, and voraciously chow down on the delicious ramen greatness served…all the while, wishing ever so much that such effort and opportunity might be better afforded, as far as relishing our film’s master chef, and his equally masterful foodstuff…there’s the overwhelmingly appreciative inspiration, in watching Osamu do his stuff…in the underliningly relevational sense that unswerving and dedicated passion in one’s work is often times, hardly fun…but the end result is oh-so self-elating and self-satisfying…as if Osamu himself was saying, “…my passion is not so much for the ramen I make, but for the people whom I serve it to; my passion is yours, fine people…Enjoy!!”…
…in the end…can this reviewer truly say that (I) am a ‘ramen head’?? Eh, probably not in the 'true' sense, as one might suppose…that remains something for this mere humble and appreciative ‘liker of ramen’ to aspire towards. For that…well, it just might well be worth the cost of a trip to Japan…

...yes, folks...it's that good...as enjoyably slurp-able as the delectably tasty soupy namesake of the film, itself...



Get books, comics, graphic novels and more at bunny17media.com. Use the code CHC at checkout for 15% off your purchase!

Follow Cinema Head Cheese:
Website: cinemaheadcheese.com
Facebook: /cinemaheadcheese
Twitter: @CinHeadCheese
Email: cinemaheadcheese@yahoo.com
Instagram: abnormalpodcast 
Pinterest: /abnormalpodcast/cinema-head-cheese/
RSS Feed: http://feeds.feedburner.com/CinemaHeadCheese
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/cinema-head-cheese-movie-reviews-news-a-podcast-and-more/id393261942?mt=2
Stitcher: http://www.stitcher.com/s?fid=18843&refid=stpr

Cinema Head Cheese is sponsored by MoviePass. See unlimited movies at a theater near you for a low monthly rate.

You can support Cinema Head Cheese and Abnormal Entertainment on our Support Us page.

No comments:

Post a Comment