Meet 85 year-old Jiro Ono, widely praised as the world's greatest sushi chef. His tiny restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro, is tucked away in a Tokyo subway station and only seats ten, yet bears three Michelin stars and has an eight month-long reservation waiting list. Jiro runs this culinary gem with a will of iron, deft fingers and his eldest son Yoshikazu. Their fascinating relationship lies at the heart of this wasabi-infused tale, as the apprentice struggles with the sometimes overbearing aura of the master. David Gelb's feature film debut nimbly explores every facet of Jiro's daily life, from his total commitment to the craft to his role as patriarch, making our mouths water along the way.
This unusual and rather unlikely documentary follows Jiro Ono an eighty-five year old sushi chef in Tokyo; there’s not really much of a story or structure to the movie which is why I felt the need to dub it “unusual” as, rather than explore a moment or change in Jiro’s life the documentary ultimately depicts his love of his art.
This is a theme often explored retrospectively in documentaries, where art historians venture into the minds of their most beloved painters or sculptors to understand how their personal passion for their craft contributed to a single masterpiece. Jiro’s story is a little different however, rather than a retrospective we are given a personal and intimate view of Jiro at work, discussing and describing his art as he creates each individual masterpiece.
Not being a fan of fish or sushi this aspect of the movie was a little hard to swallow – if you’ll excuse the pun – close up shots of Jiro’s delicate working of the flesh and other more subtle ingredients fill the film’s short run time, which could not appeal less to me on a personal level. Yet the way in which Jiro talks about his work, the passion he feels for it his dedication and tenacity are by comparison a meal so full of taste and joy I could devour it time and again.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi is not a movie about a sushi chef, it is a movie about passion and dedication, the film explores the way in which Jiro loving prepares each individual morsel, from the way in which he himself visits the rice traders and fish mongers to ensure he gets the best quality product, to the perfection he seeks with the completion of every piece. He talks eloquently and rather inspiringly of his work as an art, a craft learnt and honed to perfection over years of diligence and dedication. Whilst the beautifully chosen musical score compliments his words with an elegant poignancy.
My only qualm would be the film’s length, at about 85 minutes there’s only so much sushi one can bare the sight of and though Jiro’s love of his craft is inspiring, one can’t help but smirk at the ultimate insignificance of it all.
You rated this film: 3
Alyse Garner - Cinema Paradiso
Videos exempt from classification by the British Board of Film Classification