Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (USA) Directed by David Gelb
Fascinating portrait by David Gelb of eighty five year old Chef Jiro Ono, the owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo, a tiny ten seat restaurant charging the equivalent of three hundred dollars for a fixed multi-course menu consisting solely of sushi. The documentary, like its main subject, is contemplative; the visuals lush and sumptuous, mirroring the delicious looking food on display. Gelb, who also serves as cinematographer, plays with frame rates to great affect, lavishing attention on the intricate motions of the chefs and their underlings as they prepare and serve the simple but painstakingly produced food. Chef Jiro’s back story is Dickensian - abandoned at an early age by his parents, he was forced to begin work as a small child, falling into the world of Sushi when he signed on as an apprentice to a demanding master. For decades he has honed his skills, in the process becoming one of (if not the) best sushi chef(s) in the world. Jiro’s two sons have followed in his footsteps (Jiro convinced them not to go to college). The younger son, Takashi, owns a restaurant of his own, but older brother Yoshikazu, now fifty one, has been patiently working by his father’s side for some thirty years, waiting for him to retire so he might take over. A decade ago Yoshikazu began buying the products for the restaurant and his trips to the market, where he deals with the various specialized seafood brokers and vendors, are fascinating. This meditative film is deceivingly narrow in focus. It achieves a rare thing aesthetically in that it’s structure and pace are so well integrated with themes that involve patience, consistency, dedication, the power of repetition, humility, pride, and an overall philosophy so prevalent in the east, and very much zen in its essence, but almost anathema to practices in the western part of the world.