Jiro Dreams of Sushi (David Gelb, 2011): USA

Reviewed by Linda Sweatt. Viewed at Metro 4 theater, Santa Barbara film festival.

Jiro Loves Sushi is a lovely documentary about sushi making. I’m not sure if you need to be a sushi lover to enjoy this film, as  I do love sushi and I did quite enjoy this film. So much so that I had to literally jump out my seat when it was over in search of the best sushi Santa Barbara has to offer!  Jiro Loves Sushi is a breathtaking, mouth watering work of art.

As much as I love  watching social justice and environmental activist documentaries that keep me informed about the state of the world; here it is nice to sit back and relax and learn to appreciate a new art form. It is all about the Asian tradition of perfection. Doing the same thing over and over, day in and day out with the goal of always improving. This is the quest of the great sushi master, who says: simplicity equals perfection but repetition is the key.

The film takes place in downtown Tokyo in the bottom of a huge office building. This is where all the magic happens, where eighty-five year old Jiro ono runs his legendary restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro. This restaurant is a very small sushi bar seating only 10 people per meal. You must make a reservation at least one month ahead of time and you must be willing to pay at least $300 for one meal.  So Jiro’s persistence in excellence has earned him and his restaurant  countless prestigious awards and the reputation of being the best and most expensive sushi bar in the world.

It is truly delectable with the extreme close up shots of the sushi making and the finished masterpieces. Honoring this ancient tradition with true passion, clearly this film maker is himself a true sushi lover as well. Jiro Dreams of Sushi feels like a foreign film with subtitles but the director David Gelb is an American gourmet on a mission. He examines in great detail every single aspect of the process, from start to finish. He follows along filming inside world famous fish markets, getting inside of the  strive for perfection of each man who is along the chain to the finished product. Everyone is an expert, from the best tuna vendor, to the best squid vendor to the best shrimp vendor. They all save their best for when the best sushi maker arrives at market.

This documentary also explores the family history of Jiro Ono as well as the family relationships between himself and his two sons. Both of his sons are expert sushi chefs themselves. The younger son owns his own sushi bar and the eldest son works along side his father, ready to take over for him when the time comes. With a big smile on his face Jiro claims he has still not mastered perfection and at eight-five, he does not feel like retiring.

Jiro is like the master of the orchestra, everyone works for his approval. The ideology behind it all is hard work and discipline, but remember: you got to love what you do first.

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