A documentary about ramen sounds a little thin (and, believe me, the movie is), but the interviewees in Ramen Heads pull their weight and offer audiences interesting tidbits about the art, history, and “slurpibility” of the delicacy.
Movie goers are paired with Osamu Tomita, a Japanese chef who has won consecutive awards for his ramen servings. He’s graduated from the school of traditional values, which includes maintaining an eye for detail while running a regimented business in hopes that the dedication will inspire his apprentices and fellow chefs. Customers are always satisfied, even if they have to arrive before dawn to be placed on a waiting list for lunch later that day.
Ramen Heads flourishes when the always-charismatic Tomita is on-screen and providing insightful perspectives, but the documentary is constantly being tugged away by writer/director Koki Shigeno. Tomita’s experience is overshadowed by Shigeno’s egotistical and grandiose writing (read by English narrator Tatsuya Fukunoue, who sounds as if he’s soullessly narrating a nature documentary). He finds redeeming qualities in other interviewees, but he cuts them short as well. Ramen Heads is Shigeno’s first foray into documentary filmmaking and while I want to root for his budding career, watching him believe he knows more about the topic of ramen than his subjects is particularly disheartening and disrespectful.
Koki Shigeno does, however, know how to present the edible art – the film looks gorgeous. Maybe he needs to cut his teeth on some corporate videos and commercials before tackling his next feature-length film.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie