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Friday, 13 April 2012 00:00

'Jiro Dreams of Sushi' Is a Dream of a Film

'Jiro Dreams of Sushi' Is a Dream of a Film
Written by Diane Carson
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Producer/director David Gelb makes an impressive debut with his documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi. True to its title, indeed 85-year-old Jiro Ono does dream of sushi as he has since he began his apprenticeship at 10 years old.

He runs Sukiyabashi Jiro, a 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant at a Tokyo subway stop where a 20 sushi meal will cost approximately $300 and require at least a month's wait for a reservation. Jiro has earned a three-star Michelin rating, reaffirmed this past November, and still the only such dining establishment so designated. For all this, Japan has honored Jiro with the Meijou Award, meaning he's considered a Japanese treasure, and, indeed, he is.

Those are just facts that don't begin to convey what a perfectionist Jiro remains after 70 years making and, yes, dreaming about sushi. Disliking holidays, "they last too long," he says, Jiro works daily to achieve the perfect sushi that, humbly and sincerely, he still aspires to realizing. Jiro embodies the Japanese concept of shokunin, that is, an attitude and social consciousness that strives always to learn more to achieve perfection. As he notes, "You have to fall in love with your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill."

Jiro's eldest son, 50-year-old Yoshikazu, follows in his father's footsteps, serving a lengthy apprenticeship, as do several other workers. In the course of this fine documentary, we also meet those who supply Jiro's tuna, shrimp, and other fish. They share this approach to life, as does the man who will sell his rice only to Jiro, knowing no one else would know how to cook it properly. In other words, every detail matters, as it does in this beautifully shot film.

Without voiceover intrusion, we watch and listen to all of these perfectionists talk calmly, tenderly about their lived philosophy, a clear choice for each. It's quite thrilling to hear and see such serious commitment to "becoming a master." Producer/director David Gelb proves himself to be similarly inclined, building skillfully to the meticulous preparation and critical presentation of a twenty-course sushi dinner. The lighting, the camera angles, and the compositions evoke the lovely aesthetic captured in Jiro Dreams of Sushi. In Japanese with English subtitles. At a Landmark Theatre.

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