Film: Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)
Cast includes: Jiro Ono, Yoshikazu Ono, Takashi Ono
Director: David Gelb (A Vision of Blindness)
Genre: Documantary (81 minutes) Japanese with subtitles
“What defines deliciousness?” Ask Jiro, and he’ll tell you his “mind is bursting with ideas.” In fact he dreams about sushi. His unassuming restaurant in a Tokyo train station is a Michelin Guide 3-star restaurant that many say is the best sushi restaurant in the world. 85-year old Jiro tells us “You must immerse yourself in your work… love your job… master your skills.” A Tokyo food critic tells us that he get’s nervous when he goes there to eat. Jiro looks so stern… watching as customers eat the sushi he puts on their plate… one piece at a time. Patrons feel he expects them to be as passionate about appreciating sushi as he is about making it. “How can something so simple be so delicious?” Jiro Dreams of Sushi will attempt to show us.
A tourists stops by, hoping to pick up a menu or business card. They don’t have either. If he wants to come back, he’ll need to make a reservation at least a month in advance to get into the 10-seat restaurant… and the minimum cost for the fixed menu is ¥30,000 ($370). When he asks about coming just for appetizers, they explain that they don’t serve appetizers. The only thing they serve is sushi. But that said, Jiro tells us “We’re not trying to be exclusive.” The only thing Jiro cares about is making better sushi today than he made yesterday. And he continues to believe that’s possible.
Over the course of the film, we learn that Jiro left home and began apprenticing when he was 9. Jiro’s own two sons started apprenticing under him when they were teenagers. It’s not easy being sons of a living national treasure. But despite the challenges, both feel lucky to have trained under Jiro… even though they know they’ll never live up to their father. In showing us how “something so simple can be so delicious,” the filmmaker delves into everything about sushi… from the fish market to the delicious sushi meal in 3 movements. If you like your movies more complex, you might find this one a bit tedious. But it’s actually quite interesting… assuming you willing to go on a journey of sushi minutia. There’s something almost reverent about an artist who is this dedicated to his art… and patrons who value that level of perfectionism. Sadly, in our fast paced world, good enough is usually considered good enough. One apprentice tells us about learning to master tamagoyaki (egg sushi). He made it again and again for 4 months before he finally won Jiro’s approval. It was such a happy day, he cried. You’re likely to be hungry for sushi after seeing this movie… but the bad news is that ordinary sushi may never be good enough again.
2 popped kernels
A loving and detailed look at a living national treasure, and his simple art
Distribution: Art house
Tempo: In no hurry
Visual Style: Unvarnished realism
Character Development: Not that kind of film
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Informative