In 1985, Tampopo put ramen on the cinematic map. Since then, it has become a favorite culinary subject for art-house cinema, appearing in films like Eric Khoo’s Ramen Shop, Koki Shigeno’s documentary Ramen Heads, and the film Big Tony Leung sold his soul for, Midnight Diner. Viewers hungry for more get to visit the kind of legit neighborhood ramen joint travelers always want to go to (but usually wind-up in over-priced Shinjuku tourist-traps instead) in John Daschbach’s Come Back Anytime, which screens as part of this year’s DOC NYC.
Masamoto Ueda always worked long hours and he never got rich, but he earned enough money with his small unassuming ramen shop to support his family. More importantly, many of his customers became lifelong friends. Now reaching retirement age, Ueda is mulling how much longer he wants to do this. His general idea is to close the store when he is ready to hang it up, rather than sell it off, but he still hasn’t reached that point yet.
Daschbach’s film is largely set in the ramen shop, but he follows Ueda on a couple of related excursions, as when he helps a regular harvest his tasty looking pears. We also get a bit of time alone with his wife, who has her own identity and hobbies. She is also charming, like just about everyone is this totally endearing, but somehow never cloying film.
definitely serves up a whole lot of ramen love. It all looks delicious and it sounds great thank to a lightly swinging jazz piano soundtrack composed by Michael Shaieb (who also stylishly arranges and reinvents some classical themes). You can a get a fix of armchair culinary tourism from the doc, but it also provides some observations on the meaning of community that are rather touching.
Come Back Anytime is light, but lovely. Seeing the bowls Ueda serves up will definitely make you hungry. As a film, it is nothing flashy, but it is super-nice and inviting, just like Ueda’s ramen shop (okay, they have gyoza too). Highly recommended for ramen heads, Come Back Anytime screens 11/12 & 11/14 in-person and 11/13-11/28 online, during the 2021 DOC NYC.