The lights will come on again!


The ByTowne is now closed. But there's good news!

After the pandemic has been brought under control,
new management will take over the space and the ByTowne will re-open.

It may take a while for pandemic restrictions to be eased enough
that a feasible number of patrons can be allowed to watch a movie again,
but the new owners are working towards that day.

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2016 Restoration of the First Ramen Western!

The surreally amusing vignette that opens the great 1985 Japanese comedy Tampopo now plays, more than 30 years later, like a remarkably prescient public-service announcement. A gangster in a white suit takes his seat in the front row of a movie theatre and addresses us through the screen, warning us not to even think about crunching potato chips and crumpling wrappers once the film has started. Had Tampopo been made today, the gangster might well have thrown in a message about the rudeness of talking, texting and other 21st-century breaches of moviegoing etiquette – and with good reason.

New poster for the re-issued Japanese comedy TampopoMaking a welcome return to theaters, Jûzô Itami’s art-house hit offers the kind of sensory experience that demands a viewer’s complete surrender – to its sumptuous culinary imagery, to the subliminal aromas that seem to come wafting off the screen, and to a soundtrack alive with the sounds of food being prepared, cooked and devoured.

An early scene laying out the proper way to approach a bowl of ramen – complete with foreplay-like instructions to ‘first caress the surface with the chopstick tips’ and ‘then poke the pork’ – sets the tone for a movie with an intuitive understanding of the chemical bond between food and sex, of the sensual circuitry that connects all human appetites.

There are many love stories folded into this film’s enjoyably meandering two hours, but Tampopo is above all about the romance of food, and the joyous, agonizing devotion and hard work required to tease out its manifold mysteries.

Setting herself to that task with good-humoured determination is Tampopo herself (Nobuko Miyamoto), a widow and single mother who runs a failing noodle shop in Tokyo. With the help of Goro (Tsutomu Yamazaki), a truck driver who wears his cowboy hat even in the bath, and his trusty sidekick, Gun (a young Ken Watanabe), Tampopo sets out to turn her shop into a thriving, world-class establishment.

Her story becomes a sort of western spoof as she and her growing band of business partners visit rival restaurants, sniffing out secrets, comparing recipes and inevitably making a few enemies. And so begins a rigorous crash course in the culinary arts, for Tampopo and the audience: the ingredients of a perfect broth, the secret of rolling perfectly smooth noodles, the right slicing proportions for pork and scallions.

Cinematic fusion cuisine par excellence, Tampopo mixes genres and styles with similar gusto: It’s a western one minute, a yakuza thriller the next, with ample downtime for dream sequences and wacky interludes. Whether they’re played for irony, suspense, tragic farce, or bawdy humour, these subplots suggest a stream of endlessly refillable side dishes – some more piquant than others, but all of them in service of a robustly satisfying main course.

Released in North American theatres in 1987, and predating a number of foodie cinema classics, such as Babette’s Feast, Big Night and Eat Drink Man Woman, Tampopo has lost none of its power to revivify the senses. It has the irresistible freshness of a recipe that many have tried to copy and none have matched: a barbed, sprawling, scintillating vision of a society happily in thrall to its taste buds.

– Justin Chang, The Los Angeles Times

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