HIFF Review: ‘The God of Ramen’

Oct. 14, 2013 | 0 Comments

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REVIEW BY BETTY SHIMABUKURO / bshimabukuro@staradvertiser.com

Kazuo Yamagishi could be Santa Claus. He’s jolly, round, white-haired and bears gifts — steaming bowls of ramen that, judging by the devotion of his customers, must surpass all measure of deliciousness.

1014 HIFF god of ramen

‘THE GOD OF RAMEN’

Spotlight on Japan

North American Premiere

Screens at 6:15 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15, and 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, at Regal Dole Cannery Stadium 18; 1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, at Consolidated Koko Marina 8; 11:30 a.m. Oct. 26 at Waimea Theater (Kauai); and 5 p.m. Oct. 28, at Hilo Palace Theater (Hawaii island)

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The documentary “The God of Ramen” tracks Yamagishi from the 4 a.m. start of his day, following him as he moves through the cramped kitchen of his modest Tokyo ramen house, Taishoken, making noodles, perfecting the broth, scooping up bowls for a line of customers that can be two hours long.

But do not mistake this for your typical foodie travelogue. From scenes of happy customers slurping noodles, comes the transition: Yamagishi at his doctor’s office, where he is shown scary X-rays and told he needs knee surgery or won’t be able to stand in a few months. The chef ignores this and keeps working, abusing his legs and his health in general until he collapses. He seems committed to suicide by ramen.

Director Takashi Innami tracked Yamagishi for more than a decade, given incredible access to his life, in stark detail. Over time he gets Yamagishi to talk about his late wife, and we begin to understand how his overwhelming sense of loss likely fosters a disinterest in his own well-being.

Innami presents Yamagishi’s story without sensationalism or bluster, with a simple directness that speaks volumes. In the end you may want to put a visit to Taishoken on your bucket list, but you’ll also care deeply about its owner and you’ll be rooting for his happiness.
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Click here for more coverage of the 33rd Hawaii International Film Festival.

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