Film Reviews

Review: ‘Ramen Heads’

Hot Docs 2017

Courtesy of Hot Docs


Ramen Heads
(Japan, 93 min.)
Dir. Koki Shigeno
Programme: Made in Japan (World Premiere)

“Cheap, immediate, and deeply satisfying.” This is how the opening narration of Koki Shigeno’s Ramen Heads introduces us to the dish. A quick comfort food, the noodle soup can be created artistically, as Shigeno’s film demonstrates. Ramen Heads focuses mainly on award-winning chef Osamu Tomito as he shows us his cooking process, shares his philosophy, and takes us on a journey of ramen fanaticism. With detours into the history of the food, variations in style and preparation, and the culture surrounding it, Ramen Heads is a passionate film about those who love the soup.

Shigeno’s documentary is a celebration of ramen as it allows us to fully experience the varieties of the dish. Ramen Heads is thus an all-encompassing work. We enter into the world of ramen with Tomito, who shares openly his process and ideas, accompanied by deliciously shot sequences of his ingredients and food prep, culminating in exquisitely crafted bowls. Meticulously made, but an affordable product, ramen as created by Tomito and other master chefs is infectious, leaving us to want more.

Tomito takes us to his favourite ramen shops, and with him we experience the Japanese staple. His joy and excitement is not lost on the film, but what’s key here is a calmness. Accompanied by smoothly spoken narration, which guides us through ramen, Ramen Heads is never overwhelming in its enthusiasm. It reflects the soup itself: ramen must be accessible, appetizing, and dependable. Avoiding trends and empty gimmicks, ramen is a common ideal, its quality never needing flash to make it appealing. In the final sequence, Tomito with two other acclaimed ramen chefs attempt to make a broth out of the most luxurious, expensive meats they can find, but find the taste lacking. Going back to basics with a pork broth, they finally create perfection. Like Tomito’s recipe, Ramen Heads excels in its simplicity.

Overall, Ramen Heads is a documentary of warmth and kindness. Not content with just expressing a love of the dish, Shigeno and Tomito want to share it with the world in all its glory. Each element, from broth to noodles to toppings, is given loving importance in the creation of high quality soup. Sweetly reverential and irresistibly eager, Ramen Heads is a heartfelt love-letter to ramen that can teach the world the joy of this dish.

Ramen Heads screens:
-Thursday, May 4 at Cineplex Scotiabank at 5:45 PM
-Friday, May 5 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 10:15 AM
-Saturday, May 6 at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 10:45 AM
-Sunday, May 7 at Hart House at 12:00 PM

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