“Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” a Magnolia Pictures release, opens in Southern California this month.
The documentary is the story of 85-year-old Jiro Ono, considered by many to be the world’s greatest sushi chef. He is the proprietor of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant inauspiciously located in a Tokyo subway station.
Despite its humble appearances, it is the first restaurant of its kind to be awarded a prestigious three-star Michelin review, and sushi lovers from around the globe make repeated pilgrimages, calling months in advance and shelling out top dollar for a coveted seat at Jiro’s sushi bar.
The feature film debut of director David Gelb, “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” is a meditation on work, family, and the art of perfection, chronicling Jiro’s life as both an unparalleled success in the culinary world, and a loving yet complicated father.
The director’s frequent family trips to Japan while growing up ultimately led to his fascination and admiration for the art of making sushi. He explains, “After college, I saw BBC’s ‘Planet Earth,’ and immediately thought that it would be great if someone made a movie like that about the world’s best sushi chef. I always felt that sushi is the most visually creative food. And the sushi chef is the ultimate showman.”
Gelb embarked on a tour of Tokyo’s greatest sushi restaurants with renowned critic Yamamoto and discovered the famed restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro. Once he met chef Jiro and ate the most delicious sushi of his life, he knew that this man would be the subject of the film. “In addition to the amazing sushi, I was intrigued by the fact that he is not only working at 85 years old, but that his sons still work for him.”
Gelb spent eight weeks in Tokyo over the course of two years, gathering footage and delving head-first into Jiro’s world. Gelb and editor Brandon Driszoll-Luttringer worked closely to bring out this man’s story, looking to illustrate how his work ethic has molded his character and that of his sons.
“Jiro’s refusal to quit reminds me of my grandparents, who still rise at 5 a.m. every morning to write,” Gelb states. “This is why they are still so sharp. Like Jiro, they never stop improving.” This act of propelling oneself forward and never looking back is one of the main themes of the film.
Jiro certainly embodies all of these characteristics, but it is his philosophy on his occupation that elevates him to another level of greatness. Gelb states, “What I saw in Jiro was not just his culinary technique – not just his work. I want to show people that sushi is so much more than putting fish on rice. Jiro has created an art form. And his philosophy is to always improve your craft, to always look ahead to the future. That is something that anyone can relate to.”
Jiro never rests on his reputation. He still mentally prepares himself before a dinner service and consistently strives to find the best ingredients, the best staff, and the best dishes to serve his patrons.
Jiro’s tireless hours in the restaurant have defined his life and molded his role as a father. His dedication to his craft is fascinating, as is his relationship with his sons. Even though his eldest son is 50 years old, he continues to work and learn from his aging father every day. With a steadfast reverence that any father would hope for, Yoshikazu admires his father’s success but also recognizes that he has the daunting task of replacing him one day.
In the film, Jiro says, “Although I’m 85 years old, I don’t feel like retiring yet.” Instead of exhibiting bitterness towards his aging father, Yoshikazu allows himself to absorb as much knowledge as possible from this master. He is preparing himself so that when the time eventually comes, he will be ready. The question the film raises is: When will that day come?
SoCal Play Dates
Friday, March 16, at the Nuart Theatre, 11272 Santa Monica Blvd., just west of the 405 Freeway. (310) 281-8223, www.landmarktheatres.com/Market/LosAngeles/NuartTheatre.htm
Friday, March 23, at the following theaters:
Laemmle NoHo 7, 5240 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, (310) 478-3836, www.laemmle.com/viewtheatre.php?thid=22
Cinemas Palme D’Or 7, Westfield Palm Desert, 72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert, (760) 779-0730, www.thepalme.com
Laemmle’s Playhouse 7, 673 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, (310) 478-3836, www.laemmle.com/viewtheatre.php?thid=6
Ken Cinema, 4061 Adams Ave., San Diego, (619) 819-0236, www.landmarktheatres.com/market/SanDiego/KenCinema.htm
NorCal Play Dates
Friday, March 23, at the following theaters:
Shattuck Cinemas 10, 2230 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, (510) 464-5980, www.landmarktheatres.com/Market/SanFranciscoEastBay/ShattuckCinemas.htm
Lumiere Theatre, 1572 California St. (at Polk), San Francisco, (415) 267-4893, www.landmarktheatres.com/market/SanFrancisco/LumiereTheatre.htm
Smith Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth St. (between A and B), San Rafael, (415) 454-1222, www.cafilm.org/rfc/index.html
Tuesday, April 3, at Laemmle Cameo Cinema, 1340 Main St., St. Helena, (707) 963-9779, www.cameocinema.com/
Friday, April 6, at the following theaters:
Osio Plaza 6, 350 Alvarado St, Monterey, (831) 644-8171, http://osiocinemas.com/index.html
Crest Theatre, 1013 K St., Sacramento, (916) 442-7378, www.thecrest.com/
Summerfield Cinemas 5, 551 Summerfield Road, Santa Rosa, (707) 522-0719, http://summerfieldcinemas.com/
For dates in other states, visit www.magpictures.com/dates.aspx?id=4815ec9a-82e4-4b3c-aadf-a3ad3dcca668.
On the Web: www.magpictures.com/jirodreamsofsushi/#