Friday, 18 January 2013

Jiro Dreams of Sushi Review

Telling the tale of the Jiro Ono, a sushi master and owner of the prestigious Sukiyabashi Jiro restaurant in Ginza, Tokyo, Jiro Dreams of Sushi explores the stern philosophy and ideology behind making the world’s finest sushi. Not simply a biographically based documentary, Jiro examines and questions every element of Japan’s most famous delicacy from the perspective of one of the oldest sushi shokunin. From the personalities that source and purchase the ingredients, to the people who critique it, the film like its centred character is methodical and meticulous in its efforts to convey the convictions and mentality of the “art” and its “master”. The stern and uncomfortable stares in the introduction soon unravels into a warm and light-hearted experience that manages to capture the quintessence of perfectionism and discipline. 

Amidst the salivating imagery and Jiro’s sentiment, there’s a strong layer of social commentary, especially on the youth that had a resonance with myself. Questioning Japan’s struggle to retain its traditional ideals and values, Jiro’s concept of his country’s modernity is an interesting one. Likewise the paranoia surrounding the restaurant’s fate and legacy when Jiro passes the torch is perfectly handled in the honest and “personal” nature of the interviews. It’s much more than a documentary about sushi. However at 82 minutes Jiro’s content starts to stretch by the end, which is inevitable with a film that doesn’t rely on a strict chronology to its events. Consequently the documentary, at times, feels slightly disjointed jumping back and forth between elements. Yet Gelb manages to retain the charm and charisma that surprisingly persists from the characters and personalities. 

Visually, Jiro is superb. Influenced by the BBC’s award-winning documentary series Planet Earth, Gelb uses slow-motion, time-lapses and other techniques, both with the camera and in the 10 month editing span, to great affect. While it can become overzealous in its artistic approach, but the intricacies and attention to detail is impressive. Like the sushi, there’s a simplistic and natural  that really personifies the film and subject. Similarly the orchestral scores of Philip Glass, Bach and Max Richter offers the crescendos and repetition that Jiro hold his own work to, his daily routine and demands for self-improvement. 

Jiro is delightfully simple and pure in its approach, perfectly translating Jiro’s ideology to sushi and life onto screen. Beautifully shot and edited, David Gelb’s first “major” release is a success that resonates through the audience’s smiles and stomachs.  


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