March 10, 2014 by Welcome to the Jungle
Review by Anna G.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Directed by David Gelb
2011 American documentary
This documentary follows the renowned 85-year old chef, Sukiyabashi Jiro. His relentless hard work and talent has lead him to mastering the true art of sushi.
This remarkable documentary shows the prosperity behind Jiro and his restaurant. A slightly unconventional film, it goes into great detail of how he achieved his highly recognized status. Starting at the ripened age of 9 years old, this chef was expelled from his home and began working at sushi restaurants in Tokyo. His sons, associates, and Jiro himself all express his strict expectations for his own work, that extends to his employees. An apprentice must receive 10 years of training by Jiro before becoming an artisan. The film also features many interviews with Jiro’s oldest son, Yoshikazu, who will take over the restaurant after his father.
While not an actor, the main personality, Sukiyabashi Jiro, proves to be a very interesting character. Near the beginning he seems very stern, as it becomes clear how seriously he takes his craft. As the film progresses, we learn that Jiro is a happy man, who sincerely loves his career. He says that he has no desire to leave his work, even at the age of 85. Observing Jiro, he is in wonderful condition physically and mentally. “If I stopped working at 85, I would be bored out of my mind.” The chef says that he hates taking holidays, and gets bored of sitting around. He is a very distinct and impactful character. I have never witnessed or heard of anyone so hardworking and dedicated to his craft.
With a movie of this subject, the film could have easily flopped. The subject of a sushi chef isn’t initially so appealing as the film eventually ends up being. The documentary was very bright and professional, to demonstration the way Jiro feels about sushi. It dives into detail about each part of the sushi- the rice, the fish, the temperature, the presentation, the preparation, and the training. The audience understands the immense care that goes into each piece. Sushi is identified as a true art.
The soundtrack the film features doesn’t stand out on its own, but flourishes when heard in the movie. Mostly sending a classical feeling, the majority of the songs were composed by Phillip Glass. In addition, some concertos composed by Mozart and Tchaikovsky are featured. Director David Gelb commented on the soundtrack and stated “In hindsight, I think it works because Philip Glass’s music is kind of a metaphor for Jiro’s work ethic, because it’s repetitive but it also builds on itself and escalates, and it’s the same with Jiro’s work. Because every day he’s going, he’s doing the same routine, and trying to do everything exactly the same, but just reaching for that one step of improvement, and I feel like the music’s doing the same thing, so they match perfectly.”
I felt that this documentary was an absolute success. While it focuses on sushi, the audience is forced to think about many other themes that relate to Jiro’s work. Determination, professionalism, family and fatherhood, sheer passion, and creating your life’s purpose are all subjects that branch out from this story. The chef tells about his experience as a child, “When I was in first grade, I was told ‘you have no home to come back to, that’s why you have to work hard.’” This gives an audience insight into the drive behind Jiro’s success. With no safety blanket provided, he worked to achieve a life for himself. From this story, viewers experience the real stimulus that this film has to offer, along with its stunning camera work and lively soundtrack. These components marry flawlessly to accompany Jiro’s story.
Anna G. is a grade 12 student at FHS.