From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman.
“Jiro Dreams of Sushi”
You don’t have to be a fish fan to savor the delicious documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” which transforms sushi preparation into high art that certainly will whet the appetites of devotees to Japanese cuisine.
American director/cinematographer David Gelb aspires to make more than just mouthwatering “food porn” with his debut documentary feature, though the succulent visuals look good enough to eat, particularly in high-definition Blu-ray.
Gelb’s film offers an intriguing rumination on perfectionism and a relatable story about a standard-bearer father and the sons who follow in his footsteps. The filmmaker serves up his storytelling with a heaping helping of fondness for his subject: Jiro Ono, 85, who, at the time of filming, was considered the world’s best sushi chef. His 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro, became the first of its kind of to earn a prestigious Michelin three-star review, despite its humble location in a corner of a Tokyo subway station.
Gelb isn’t taking creative license with his film’s title: After 75 years of making it, Ono actually dreams of sushi and ways to make it better, even if it means ordering his apprentices to massage the octopus for 40 to 50 minutes instead of a half-hour to make the flesh especially tender.
The master chef still maintains his lofty standards, which he also has applied to his sons, Yoshikazu and Takashi, who are keenly aware of the unlikelihood of ever living up to their father’s daunting reputation. After training for decades with his father, Takashi has opened his own popular restaurant, Sukiyabashi Roppongi, which must charge less for serving the same menu.
As Japanese custom dictates, the elder son continues to work at the original eatery, which he will take over when his father retires or dies. Yoshikazu never anticipated he would still be playing second fiddle into his 50s, but he still longingly wishes that his father could make sushi forever.
From the repeated slow-motion images of the skilled chefs molding rice and fish to the fast-forward montage of apprentices preparing eel, egg and octopus, Gelb cooks up cinematic art, often scoring the sequences to Philip Glass’ classical compositions.
Although it lacks a making-of featurette, the Blu-ray offers a few extra yummy courses — 20 minutes of revealing deleted scenes, extended sequences with the master vendors at Tokyo’s bustling Tsukiji seafood market, a commentary with the director and editor Brandon Driscoll-Luttringer and a saliva-inducing sushi stills gallery — that makes “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” an even more appetizing film feast.