Sunday, 23 March 2014

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (U) | Film Review


Jiro Dreams of Sushi, dir. David Gelb, st. Jiro Yoshino

Deep in the basement of the Tsukamoto Sogyo Building in Ginza, Tokyo, resides the three-Michelin-starred Sukiyabashi - the Apple Store of sushi restaurants - where customers pay a premium for years of care, attentiveness and expertise that the eighty-five year old proprietor, Jiro Ono, brings to bear on his establishment and his mouth-watering creations. We in the West might look at the East's unending pursuit for unattainable excellence with amusement - derision even, given the immense pressure placed upon young adults to succeed and flourish for the sake and respect of family and ancestral pride - and sure enough, Jiro is unapologetically contemptuous of families that allow their offspring to return home should their children fail at their first stab at life, but there's also an undeniable nobility in taking unrushed pride in one's work. Jiro's sushi creation processes have a meditative quality that's more akin to artistic, spiritual practice rather than culinary procedure. For sure, there's a whole heap of food porn sequences in Gelb's film - tender pieces of unctuous fatty tuna reclining on chaise-longues of steaming sticky rice are filmed in glorious close-up that'll have you pawing at the screen to get at them, Mike Teevee-style - but this isn't only a documentary about the purity of sushi construction and execution. Gelb paints a fascinating portrait of Jiro himself, a man for whom abandonment issues during his formative years might shed some light on why and how he and his sons have become the dedicated, unassuming purveyors of perfection they are today.