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Jiro Dreams of Sushi

April 16, 2012

This is the promised review of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a documentary about the world’s greatest sushi chef, Jiro Ono, a sprightly eighty-five year-old who operates a ten-seat restaurant in a Tokyo subway station. Working under him is his eldest son, aged fifty, who could not be faulted for feeling a little disappointed that his father has not retired and handed over the business to him, and who in any case will always work in shadow of his father’s legend.  On the whole the movie is very much what you would expect and quite good at that. There is some nice food porn, a trip to the fish market, a lot of talk about perfectionism, devotion to work, the passion for excellence. It caters to our fascination with people who are the very best at what they do, our desire to watch them at work and hear their wisdom and bathe in their aura. Like superhero comics only more grown-up and delectable. It taps into our dreams of excellence, our need to know that somewhere in the world there is the best, the highest quality, of whatever, whether it is sushi, motorcycles, hand-tied fishing flies, saxophone solos or hashish. It is classic material for a documentary and this one is a nice example of the genre. The father-son business adds a touch of human interest without distracting us from the central issue of sushi. Sushi haters may find this film nauseating, the rest must be warned to come to this film fully sated, or risk falling prey to cravings that may greatly trouble your cinematic experience.

The restaurant has three Michelin stars (“worth a special journey, possibly requiring the purchase of a new set of tires”). I will give the movie two Michelin stars (“worth a detour to the Vinegar Hill Theatre, if you are already in Charlottesville and aren’t too terribly busy”).

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