Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
The 10 Most Controversial Cannes Films Ever The 10 Most Controversial Cannes Films Ever Roger Deakins To Shoot Denis Villeneuve's 'Blade Runner' Sequel Roger Deakins To Shoot Denis Villeneuve's 'Blade Runner' Sequel More NSFW Posters For Gaspar Noe's 3D 'Love' Plus The Official Director's Statement More NSFW Posters For Gaspar Noe's 3D 'Love' Plus The Official Director's Statement Cannes: Watch A Three Way Makeout In The First Clip From Gaspar Noe’s 3D ‘Love’ Plus New NSFW Image Cannes: Watch A Three Way Makeout In The First Clip From Gaspar Noe’s 3D ‘Love’ Plus New NSFW Image Simon Pegg Worries That Adults Obsessed With Comics & Sci-Fi Have Become "Infantilized By Our Own Taste" Simon Pegg Worries That Adults Obsessed With Comics & Sci-Fi Have Become "Infantilized By Our Own Taste" Cannes Review: Denis Villeneuve's 'Sicario' Starring Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin And Benicio Del Toro Cannes Review: Denis Villeneuve's 'Sicario' Starring Emily Blunt, Josh Brolin And Benicio Del Toro George Miller Says He Courted Heath Ledger To Lead 'Mad Max' In 2006, Reveals Title For 'Fury Road' Sequel George Miller Says He Courted Heath Ledger To Lead 'Mad Max' In 2006, Reveals Title For 'Fury Road' Sequel Watch: Michael Fassbender Takes The Stage In First Trailer For 'Steve Jobs' Watch: Michael Fassbender Takes The Stage In First Trailer For 'Steve Jobs' Cannes Review: Todd Haynes' 'Carol' Starring Cate Blanchett & Rooney Mara Cannes Review: Todd Haynes' 'Carol' Starring Cate Blanchett & Rooney Mara Cannes Review: Gus Van Sant's 'The Sea Of Trees' Starring Matthew McConaughey, Ken Watanabe & Naomi Watts Cannes Review: Gus Van Sant's 'The Sea Of Trees' Starring Matthew McConaughey, Ken Watanabe & Naomi Watts Cannes Review: Woody Allen's 'Irrational Man' Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone And Parker Posey Cannes Review: Woody Allen's 'Irrational Man' Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Emma Stone And Parker Posey Simon Pegg Reveals Daniel Craig's Role In 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Simon Pegg Reveals Daniel Craig's Role In 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Cannes Review: Yorgos Lanthimos' Outstanding 'The Lobster' Starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz & John C Reilly Cannes Review: Yorgos Lanthimos' Outstanding 'The Lobster' Starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz & John C Reilly Watch: Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard In The Intense First Clip For ‘Macbeth’ Watch: Michael Fassbender & Marion Cotillard In The Intense First Clip For ‘Macbeth’ George Miller Says 'Interstellar' Came Close To What His Version Of 'Contact' Would've Been Like George Miller Says 'Interstellar' Came Close To What His Version Of 'Contact' Would've Been Like New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' New NSFW, Extremely Graphic, Adults-Only Poster For Gaspar Noe's 'Love' The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Films Of 2015 We've Already Seen The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season The 20 Best TV Shows Of The 2013/2014 Season All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More All The Songs In 'Pitch Perfect' Including La Roux, David Guetta, Azealia Banks, Nicki Minaj & More

Review: 'Jiro Dreams Of Sushi' A Fascinating (If Sometimes Jarring) Profile Of A Master Chef

The Playlist By Simon Abrams | The Playlist March 6, 2012 at 4:01PM

There’s something weirdly off-putting about the music cues in "Jiro Dreams of Sushi," a documentary-cum-character study of an 85-year-old sushi “shokunin” or craftsman. Octogenarian Jiro Ono is the cheeriest of workaholics. He can’t imagine retiring, at least not until he’s either too ugly or too infirm to serve his patrons. Simply put, Ono loves his demanding job as the head chef at Sukiyabashi Jiro, his own 10-seat, Ginza-based sushi bar. Sukiyabashi Jiro is the smallest restaurant to be given a three-star rating by the Michelin Guide.
0
Jiro Dreams Of Sushi

There’s something weirdly off-putting about the music cues in "Jiro Dreams of Sushi," a documentary-cum-character study of an 85-year-old sushi “shokunin” or craftsman. Octogenarian Jiro Ono is the cheeriest of workaholics. He can’t imagine retiring, at least not until he’s either too ugly or too infirm to serve his patrons. Simply put, Ono loves his demanding job as the head chef at Sukiyabashi Jiro, his own 10-seat, Ginza-based sushi bar. Sukiyabashi Jiro is the smallest restaurant to be given a three-star rating by the Michelin Guide.

To Ono, being passionate about your job is the only option. Which is ostensibly why director David Gelb presents Ono and his restaurant team’s meticulous process of food preparation with a mix of dreamy awe and fetishized attention to detail. This approach sounds fitting in theory. But in practice, it’s less than satisfying. Gelb films some prep scenes of fish being pared and then turned into sushi in slow motion while the film’s bombastic and melancholic score, composed largely of music by Phillip Glass and Max Richter, does most of the talking. That music almost single-handedly destroys the emotional equilibrium of key scenes that establish the film’s main thesis, namely that work in Ono’s world is both a dream and discipline. While its director’s reverence and vision is apparent, "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" often feels overdone thanks to Gelb’s unusual mix of tones.

Jiro Dreams Of Sushi

The meals at Jiro Ono’s restaurant start at $300 and only revolve around sushi. There are no other appetizers available and you must make a reservation about a month in advance to get a seat. Jiro’s eldest son, Yoshikazu, explains that, “We’re not trying to be exclusive or elite.” Instead, it’s a point of pride for the Onos to be completely thorough. That aura of single-minded focus determines much of Gelb’s vision of Ono as a master shokunin. For example, Yoshikazu makes a point of buying the restaurant’s fish from vendors at the Tsukiji Fish Market that only specialize in tuna or shrimp.

And yet, a big part of what’s so refreshing about Jiro Ono is how modest and self-critical he is. That endearing trait is also wisely highlighted early on in the film when a prominent Japanese food critic mentions how tirelessly Jiro works to improve his recipes and to keep Sukiyasbashi Jiro’s menu fresh. Jiro readily admits that being disciplined and experienced doesn’t always reap great results. Yoshikazu gives voice to his father’s theory about how ultimately you need to be talented to succeed when he says, “Studying hard doesn’t guarantee you’ll become a good person.”

Jiro Dreams Of Sushi

The fact that Yoshikazu is advocating this philosophy is striking since it had a direct impact on how both he and Takashi, his little brother, were raised by Jiro. Both children were, according to Jiro, only “allowed” to graduate high school. Then they started their ten-year apprenticeship with Jiro at his restaurant. Jiro is the first person to say that he was probably a negligent parent, joking about how a young Takashi, now an adult, would look at his father as a stranger in his own house.

But Jiro also actively encouraged Takashi to start his own sushi restaurant in Roppongi Hills. Yoshikazu tells us that, as Jiro’s older child, he will eventually inherit Sukiyabashi Jiro. So when Jiro encourages Takashi to branch out on his own, it’s his way of helping his youngest son to survive. There’s no excessive sentimentality to that decision; you can tell that Jiro respects his son as a peer by the way he tells Gelb’s translator that he felt Takashi was a good enough chef to start his own restaurant.

"Jiro Dreams of Sushi"
"Jiro Dreams of Sushi"

Every decision that Jiro Ono makes in "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" seems to boil down to a matter of discipline first and then affection. Which is what makes Welb’s approach to filming Jiro and his team at work so disconcerting. The use of numbers like Richter’s “Berlin by Overnight” or “Infra 5” suggest a pronounced melancholy and a hint of turbulence to Ono’s process that Gelb’s footage simply does not support. On the one hand, it’s easy to see why Richter and Glass’ minimalist aesthetic were chosen to score these scenes: as compositions, they’re both structured around the notion that the slightest inflection can change the nature of the seemingly routine.

Richter and Glass’ pieces are also sampled in order to reflect Ono’s conflation of his dream job with his hard-and-fast discipline. But the pensive mood of Richter and Glass’ pieces don’t always gel with Gelb’s footage. By film’s end, Gelb hints that there might, in fact, be a reason to think that Ono’s artisanal style of cooking is endangered, namely the global over-consumption of fresh fish. But with two sons carrying on his legacy, "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" should be a celebration of an artist’s accomplishments, not a premature burial. Maybe Gelb should have gotten Dan Deacon to score his film… [B]

This article is related to: Jiro Dreams Of Sushi, Review


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates