Sukiyabashi Jiro is considered by many in the know to be one of the greatest sushi restaurants in the world, but you’d never know it given that it’s a tiny spot located inside a busy subway station. But in here an eighty-five year old man named Jiro Ono has more or less perfected the art of sushi and in doing so, found happiness and purpose.
Directed by David Gelb, Jiro Dreams Of Sushi is an aptly titled look at the life of an internationally recognized master of his craft, but it’s also a look at what makes him whole. Jiro’s restaurant gets booked quickly and interested diners generally have to make reservations months in advance and then pay 30,000 yen a plate. They don’t get to choose what they eat, as Jiro prepares only one dish a day – and yet people go nuts for what he offers. It would seem that as Jiro has quite literally given his all towards perfecting what he does, that the results speak for themselves. His sushi is the best in the world.
As we learn more about this meek and humble old man and his business, we also learn about the importance of his family, the roles that various family members play in his life, and his thoughts on life, work, aging and food. He refuses to retire despite the fact that he is almost a century old, noting at one point that if he left his job, he’d probably die of boredom. It’s as if he knows nothing else at this point, he quite literally dreams of sushi. Jiro’s two sons support him as best they can. He sent his eldest son off on his own to open his own restaurant while his youngest still helps him out at Sukiyabashi Jiro day in, day out, being groomed as his father’s successor and the man who will keep the restaurant going when Jiro passes on.
We see Jiro meeting and interacting with fish mongers, accepting nothing but the best that they have and turning it from ‘meat’ into ‘art’ – something that the camera captures beautifully. As interesting as Jiro Ono is, and he’s quite a character, there will be those who are more inclined to appreciate his work. The HD cameras used in the shoot for this film shoot Jiro’s creations with almost pornographic excess, they look amazing and are shown in such ridiculous close ups that you can’t help but marvel at them.
Those who know Jiro personally, like his sons, and professionally, like a food critic who has befriended him over the years all chime in with their appreciation for the man and his dedication. The instrumental score that accompanies all of this adds emotional weight when called for but never to the point where it feels corny or overdone. The end result is part character study, part edutainment, and part treatise on life and family – it comes together far better and with far more interesting results than you’d probably expect it to, a very well made film about a very interesting subject.
You might not expect a documentary about sushi to provide so much eye candy as this one does, and in short, Jiro Dreams Of Sushi looks fantastic on Blu-ray. The AVC encoded 1080p high definition picture is framed at 1.78.1 widescreen and shows excellent detail and color, especially in those lingering shots of the handmade delicacies its subject spends so much time on. Texture is also impressive and black levels are strong. There’s a little bit of shimmer here and there but otherwise the picture quality here is clean, crisp and very strong.
The only audio option is a Japanese language DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track, with subtitles provided in English, English SDH and Spanish. Almost all of the interview and dialogue bits come from the front of the mix as you’d expect but surround channels are used effectively throughout the movie to spread the score around quite well. If this isn’t the most active and aggressive mix you’ve ever heard, well, it doesn’t need to be.
The main extra is a commentary track from director David Gelb and editor Brandon Driscoll-Luttringer in which the pair talk about the origins of this interesting project and what it was like getting it all put together. They share some amusing stories of cultural differences and talk about what went into finishing the film. It’s an interesting, though occasionally light, discussion of the film and its subject. A collection of ten deleted scenes totals just over twenty minutes in length while a section entitled Masters houses another twenty minutes of footage shot for the film at a fish market. Rounding out the extras is a delicious looking gallery of sushi, the film’s trailer, trailers for a few other Magnolia properties, menus and chapter stops. All of the extras are in high definition and the disc is Blu-ray live enabled if you have the right equipment and want to go online to access more material.
The Final Word:
More a look at one man and his completely content state of being and purpose than a piece specifically about preparing sushi, Magnolia’s presentation of Jiro Dreams Of Sushi is a very good one. This quirky and inspiring film is offered up in great shape sporting a beautiful transfer and with some interesting extra features as well. A surprisingly engaging and interesting release well worth seeking out.
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