Sunday, June 3, 2012
I don't see many films these days. When I was at uni, studying film, I could watch up to 10 films in a week. Now I'd be lucky to see 10 films in a year. But Jiro Dreams of Sushi would have to be one of my favourites so far this year.
This feature film debut for David Gelb tells the story of Jiro Ono, an 85 year old sushi chef who owns and works at Sukiyabashi Jiro - a sushi-only restaurant in a Tokyo subway station. Bookings are taken months in advance, the average meal will cost $300 and will be over in less than 30 minutes, during which time guests will have consumed approximately 20 pieces of sushi.
The story is artfully told, accentuated by a classical music soundtrack and a flowing narrative that takes us through the restaurant's history, processes, kitchen hierarchy and vendors. As a documentary it works, because I left without having any more questions - all the stones had been turned.
There were a few things that I really liked:
1) Tsujiki Market scenes - the film explained the selection and selling process which I did not understand when I visited a few years ago. As a tourist it's a cold, noisy, busy, confusing and not entirely comfortable experience to stand in the auction room in the pre-dawn chill of a Tokyo morning. But through the documentary I got an insight into the way it worked and saw the auction as a sort of performance, the auctioneer's skills and those of the vendors, as an art. I was glad for the new perspective.
2) Of course I liked seeing Tokyo again too. And as sushi is truly one of my favourite foods, it left me hungry for more. I even walked past my local sushi restaurant hoping to stop by to satiate my craving, but will need to wait for lunchtime today.
3) Most impressive was Jiro's single-minded commitment to being a better sushi chef. And his love for his work - there has not been a single day that he has not wanted to work. That, in itself, is enviable and inspiring.
See the film if you like sushi, food, Japan or documentaries focusing on one person's real-life story.