“Jiro Dreams of Sushi” is a new feature-length documentary directed by David Gelb. It is the story of Jiro Ono and his sushi bar, the first to be given the coveted three-star Michelin review.
The story does not go to great length to find drama between him and his sons, prodigious chefs in their own right, as well as his apprentices, current & former. In this, it mimics Jiro’s own style, watching from the back of the ten-person bar he serves from, meticulously observing his customers and how they eat his prized fish, but never imposing himself upon them, just quietly bending his service to accommodate their needs. We don’t see Jiro’s house, we don’t find out what his favorite baseball team is, we dont’ even know where, how or if he eats. So, invested with a little bit of Jiro’s tireless drive, we’re treated to 80 minutes of almost totally uninterrupted, unmitigated, unrelenting food porn. And it is awesome food porn.
There is shot after shot of delicately handled fish matter, carefully sliced, meticulously sauced, then exquisitely placed upon it’s brick of signature rice. The tuna and squid undulate into focus, as if out of some lurid, pre-code silent film. But director/DP David Gelb doesn’t just stop at the food; the film is gorgeously photographed throughout, front of house and back of house. The score is mostly sourced from Philip Glass helping to give things a pressing, epic tone.
This film is more kindling for the argument that most feature film documentaries would do better to lose 15 or 20 minutes of their overall length; there are some third act developments that feel like deleted scenes hastily slapped into the film, including a segment about overfishing which comes totally out of left field, then doesn’t stick around any longer than it’s 6 or 7 minutes, and a trip to Jiro’s hometown that does little to establish any more about Jiro’s private life.
Jiro is dreaming and from where we’re watching it doesn’t look so bad…
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