Jiro Dreams of Sushi

June, 2012, Documentary

Directed by:David Gelb



 Documentaries live or die on the inherent interest viewers have in the subject matter, so it’s a brave practitioner of that genre who’s willing to be judged on detailing the accomplishments of a life devoted excellence in a single gastronomic endeavor.   

 It may be difficult for confirmed carnivores to comprehend how a filmmaker would find the life of an 85 year old Japanese restaurateur worthy of a film dedicated to his craft, but director David Gelb dutifully explores the nearly obsessive pursuit of culinary excellence of one Jiro Ono, whose tiny sushi bar (with a seating capacity of 10) owns The Michelin Guide’s sole 3-star rating.

 Gelb and his film crew follow Jiro and his eldest son Yoshikazo as they prowl the fresh fish and produce markets of Tokyo in search of ingredients worthy of their time and attention. The Onos and a small army of dedicated apprentices then employ a surprisingly exhausting amount of physical energy in preparing the hand-crafted and freshly-made menu items that move food critics and long-term clients alike to rapturous praise.

 Gelb allows his father/son duo ample screen time to disclose the secrets of their success, which revolve around Jiro’s compulsive attention to detail and a near-dictatorial relationship with those allowed to cross the threshold of their establishment.

 Acting as his own cinematographer, Gelb provides his audience with interesting snippets of information about the linkages that exist between those who harvest Japan’s high-end foodstuffs and the uses to which they are put by Tokyo’s chefs, but there are only so many ways the camera can present the fruits of Jiro’s creativity and even at a modest 81 minutes, the film struggles to avoid repetition. In the end, one has to admit that the cuisine looks gorgeous - -  but how many accolades can you heap on dead fish and the assorted vegetables that accompany them?

 The Verdict? A pleasant examination of a subject with rather limited appeal. 

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