Jiro: Dreams of Sushi

By Moira Sullivan 

Jiro: Dreams of Sushi is a 2011 documentary that is making the rounds and will be opening this week at Landmark Theatres. If you thought you knew all there was to know about sushi, this film will prove you don’t. 
Jiro Ono
Jiro Ono is a Japanese sushi master with 10 seats in his subway restaurant in Tokyo and he serves up the most exquisite handcrafted sushi. Few sushi restaurants have such quality. I can think of one on Clement St in San Francisco that seems to live up to the reputation of Jiro—Murusaki’s.  It is the kind of restaurant with three courses, as is explained in this documentary, with different kinds of sushi. The San Francisco chef has a diploma for using the deadly blowfish, and that is difficult to come by.
Jiro takes us through the male dominion of sushi making in Tokyo, from the fish markets where brokers bid on fish like the stock market in New York to the restaurants. It takes a while to become a sushi master and Jiro, who is now 80, has received several prizes. 
New York filmmaker David Gelb briefly traces Jiro’s upbringing. Apparently Jiro was raised by a strict father who failed at business and he almost never smiles through the film. We learn he was a bully in grade school and he travels to meet his old school chums who can testify to that.
The style of the film includes interview with Jiro’s son, Yoshikazu, who is now in the sushi business, workers in the field, the fishmongers, and fans of his eating. 

Documentary filmmakers should find new ways of making their films, because to show interview after interview with a nice background is not enough. The use of fast film speed to convey the routine nature of this business is done a couple of times without much artistic flare. And just when you think you have heard enough Philip Glass to last a lifetime, David Gelb trots him out again, to symbolize the frenzy of this routine business. 
It is true that Jiro dedicated his life to improving his craft and perhaps his life doesn’t need a documentary film for us to realize his talents. But how else would we have every learned about him? 
Now, to do some serious investigation for the best sushi restaurants in San Francisco.
© 2012 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 03/21/12
Movie Magazine International