Magnolia Pictures // 2011 // 82 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // August 4th, 2012
"In dreams, I would have visions of sushi." -- Jiro Ono
Jiro Ono, by age 85, has seen a lot of sushi, awake or asleep. His restaurant somewhere in the depths of Tokyo's subway system is famous, thanks to public attention that has culminated in Jiro Dreams of Sushi. "All I want to do is make better sushi," Jiro says. His fans -- most notably food writer Yamamoto -- say he does. He also has three stars from Michelin to confirm it.
Like many a foodie doc, Jiro Dreams of Sushi features lots of artistic shots of Jiro and his team -- which includes his son Yoshikazu -- as they lovingly prepare sushi. Unlike many of those foodie docs, it also has shots of Jiro carefully washing his cutting board, with equal artistry.
What you'll see is familiar, but somehow director David Gelb goes just a little bit farther, as the film follows Jiro's daily routine, which starts in repetitive motion with his morning subway ride. Gelb's work keeps with the film's theme, that Jiro just goes a little bit further in preparing his sushi, leaving a feeling that the sushi master's dedication pushed Gelb harder as well.
Jiro's work lends itself well to film because it seems like performance art. There's a row of seats where patrons can watch him at work and have him personally deliver his creations. This closeness to the diners also makes his work feel personal, making it less of a surprise that, at eighty-five, Jiro has no intention of retiring. Jiro's sushi-making is accompanied by a score with lots of Philip Glass and classical music.
In commentary, Gelb explains that he wanted to make a movie about sushi in general, but Yamamoto nudged him in Jiro's direction. "Everything that I wanted to convey about sushi would best be conveyed through his perspective," Gelb says. The commentary by Gelb and editor Brandon Driscoll-Luttringer also discusses more about Yamamoto and the fear of wasabi.
Other extras include deleted scenes, with Yamamoto talking about his first Jiro sushi and Jiro's discussion of bowling; "Masters," shorts that visit the experts who sell Jiro his fish; a sushi gallery, showing pictures of featured sushi such as o-toro (fatty tuna) and kuruma ebi (wheel shrimp); and a trailer.
Like Jiro's sushi, Jiro Dreams of Sushi is just done with a little extra care that sets it apart. Anyone who likes foodie documentaries will want to see it, even if they're not into sushi.
Review content copyright © 2012 James A. Stewart; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2015 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Japanese)
Running Time: 82 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Deleted Scenes
* Sushi Gallery