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USA 2011
Directed by
David Gelb
82 minutes
Rated G

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Jiro Dreams Of Sushi

Watching this documentary about Jiro Ono, an 85 year old chef who has dedicated his life (and the lives of his two sons) to the creation of the perfect sushi one cannot help but think of Tampopo, Jûzô Itami’s wonderful 1985 film about the search for the perfect ramen. The latter is fictional but both are intriguing portraits of Japanese society with its highly regimented codes of behaviour and inflexible commitment to excellence.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi
is not so much a foodie’s delight (only in the closing section of the film when we are shown the individual portions of Jiro’s set menu does it become that) as a symptomatic analysis of the workings of Japanese society. Jiro, his two sons, his employees, his suppliers and his tiny restaurant, in the basement of a Tokyo high-rise are a microcosm of Japanese values: dedication to work, deference to tradition, self-abnegation. From a Western perspective it seems crushingly monotonous but from a Japanese perspective it presumably is living Zen.  The rewards for Jiro are great. His restaurant has been awarded three stars, the highest possible rating, by the Michelin Guide and he is a living legend but it is clear that this means little to him. All he lives for is to make perfect sushi.

Fortunately the film is not entirely inward-looking and it does in its latter stages confront the effect that the now world-wide popularity of sushi has had on marine life with some species simply having been harvested into extinction – the yang to Jiro’s yin - a fact to which Yoshikazu, Jiro's eldest son and heir-designate seem resigned. But then that seems so right in a culture which seems inelectably dedicated to following its given path. .




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