Archive for May, 2012

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

May 12th, 2012 No comments

Lindsey was 9 months pregnant, a couple days past her due date, so we were trying to take our mind off just waiting for labor and thought we should use up our AMC gift cards. About $100 worth. After looking at the line up of films at the nation’s second largest theater chain I hoped I could sell my gift cards to someone else.  The wife objected, we went to Hunger Games and when we got home I paid our babysitter with an AMC gift card.  Days later we went back to AMC to watch The Five-Year Engagement. I’m still unsure how the screenwriting duo that brought us the fantastic revival of The Muppets could possible make the worst film of the year (that I’ve seen), but they accomplished the feat admirably. With ten dollars left on a gift card I was using it to practice my Gambit style card attack as I whipped it like a dagger into watermelons; I have since cut it into an effigy so my two-year old can perform puppet plays where she provides the dialogue, which is mostly just “puppies” and “mommy,” but still contains a better story arc than anything you’ll find at AMC right now. With my hard earned cash I am driving out of the valley, miles out of my way and paying Landmark’s higher ticket price to see Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

Filmmaker David Gelb takes us down a slow moving escalator, beneath the immense, monolithic Tokyo where success and money fuel afrenzy of people like a school of angry tuna, to a corner of a subway where nobody would ever expect to find the world’s most revered sushi chef. Jiro Ono owns and operates a 10-seat restaurant with a small team of very loyal apprentices and his son, Yoshikazu. In the cleanest part of a subway I’ve ever seen, there is no room for pretense. They do not exude success with any flash, pomp or glamor, but because this team is lead by a man committed entirely to perfecting a craft. Preparing sushi is an art of tremendous complexity beyond what I thought possible for raw fish and rice.

Jiro left his home at the age of 9 and started in the sushi world at the age of 10, working for the last 75 years to perfect the subtleties of sushi. Now it is a family affair. Sitting in a subway corridor,at 50-years old, Yoshikazu slaps dried seaweed over hot coals. His father instilled in him a dedication to a method taught to him over the decades of demanding work.  His focus on this method has done what seemed impossible; he’s helped his father earn a 3-star Michelin ranking.

This high of a ranking essentially means that it is worth a trip to the country just to eat at this one establishment. Gelb embarks on an intimate journey into the inner-workings of the smallest 3-star restaurant in the world. Through a mixture of melodic, minimalist score (provided in large part by the great Phillip Glass) and beautiful images the process of making sushi becomes a ballet, or a symphony or like what it must’ve been like to watch Jackson Pollack dance around his canvass to create a masterpiece.  It made me want to eat sushi, but not just any sushi.  If I were to eat sushi anywhere else I would in some way be cheating myself. So I have to wait at least a month (as is the earliest reservation) and a year (as I need to save money for the trip).

This film taught me that considering sushi to be merely rice and fish is a gross oversimplification; it reminds me that storytelling is an art of equal complexity, often oversimplified to just images and sounds.  In his debut feature film David Gelb was able to make sushi intriguing, enthralling and manages to dive deep into a fascinating character. This is the type of movie that will feed your soul, not barrage your senses leaving you feeling intellectually, emotionally and spiritually malnourished. (see: Hunger Games, The Five-Year Engagement and other films at your local AMC).


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