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Film

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

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Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Directed by David Gelb

Opens April 13 at the Charles Theatre

David Gelb’s documentary opens by explaining/confirming its title: 85-year-old Jiro Ono spends all day, almost every day, preparing and making sushi, and visions for new flavor combinations and new techniques occupy his dreams at night. It is not surprising, then, that he is considered the best sushi chef in the world, or that Sukiyabashi Jiro, his small and surprisingly humble restaurant located in a Tokyo office building, boasts a Michelin three-star rating. Gelb’s likewise small and humble film provides an elegant portrait of this deceptively simple-looking kitchen craft and its foremost practitioner.

As Gelb’s unobtrusive account makes clear, Ono is a perfectionist-cum-obsessive. His decades-long honing of his art has obviously paid off (a sushi course at the counter in his restaurant starts north of $300 per diner), and he has passed his skill and knowledge and meticulous perfectionism off to his two middle-aged sons: Yoshikazu, who assists him, and Takashi, who branched off and opened his own two-star rated restaurant. Yet the fact that Jiro refuses to retire and leave the restaurant to fiftysomething Yoshikazu, quite possibly the second-best sushi chef in the world, or that younger brother Takashi is a competing restauranteur, at least nominally, provides almost no dramatic tension or narrative drive.

What Jiro Dreams of Sushi does best is document the lengths that a true master will go to create something great, from scenes of Yoshikazu buying the finest fish the Tokyo seafood market has to offer and dutifully hand-toasting stacks of individual seaweed sheets over a brazier all the way through to endless shots of Jiro obsessively shaping nigiri with his nimble fingers, each simple morsel of rice and fish the culmination of nearly infinite thought and trouble and care. It will make you want to hit your local sushi spot for what will be, at best, a pale imitation of Ono’s art.

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