Film Review: ‘JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI’ by Bari Biern

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His restaurant seats ten. He serves no appetizers, no side dishes, no desserts. He consistently earns three Michelin stars, a rating that implies that the dining experience alone is worth a trip to Tokyo.  He is 86-year-old master chef Jiro Ono and the only item on his menu is sushi. Sushi is his life’s work and his passion. Jiro is such a perfectionist that, as each piece of lean tuna, eel or octopus is carefully presented one delectable piece at a time, he stands in front of the customer to watch his creation being consumed.

Jiro Ono and Yoshikazu Ono in 'Jiro Dreams of Sushi,' a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is director David Gelb’s documentary about this legendary chef. Jiro has spent a lifetime creating and developing his techniques, which require the staff at his restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro, to spend each day endlessly repeating his exact methods down to the smallest detail. His perfectionism extends beyond the kitchen to the premium quality of the fish, rice and produce he buys. His vendors are as passionate as Jiro, and they consider him their most important customer. If they can please him, they know they’ve reached a pinnacle.

This 81-minute documentary offers a detailed portrait of its subject, but there’s another star of the show, Jiro’s sushi. The meticulous path to the plate begins at the fish market. Gelb’s footage is gorgeous and graphic. The scenes in the kitchen emphasize the painstaking techniques Jiro’s staff employs under his strict supervision. And all this…for a perfect piece of sushi.

While much of the film focuses on one man’s tenacious pursuit and achievement of his single goal in life, there’s also the matter of Jiro’s two sons. Throughout their lives, they have toiled under their father’s very long shadow. The older son, according to Japanese custom, will remain with his father’s business and assume control after Jiro retires. The younger son has opened a second branch of Sukiyabashi Jiro in another part of town. There’s a fascinating dynamic at work here, as the two brothers follow the very narrow path their father has laid out for them. Jiro may dream of sushi, but what about his sons? Do they have dreams of their own?

Jiro Dreams of Sushi  is currently playing at The Avalon Theatre and Landmark Theatres’E St. Cinema in DC, and at the Cinema Arts Theatre in Fairfax.

LINKS

Watch the trailer of Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

The official website of Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

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Bari Biern
Bari Biern is an actress/playwright/lyricist whose first musical, 'A Dance Against Darkness: Living with AIDS' (with composer Roy Barber) was nominated for Helen Hayes Awards as Outstanding New Play and Outstanding Resident Musical. She wrote the lyrics for 'Riddle Me a Prince,' a children’s musical which premiered at Imagination Stage, with book by Ernie Joselovitz and Harry Bagdasian, and music by Emmy Award winner, Lenny Williams. She contributes lyrics to the political satire troupe, the Capitol Steps, and has been performing with them since 1993. Bari was the lyricist for the critically-acclaimed In Series production of 'The Marriage of Figaro: Las Vegas Version.' That opera (with dialogue by Elizabeth Pringle) was presented by Philadelphia’s Poor Richard’s Opera Company as part of the 2010 Philly Fringe Festival. Poor Richard’s also presented 'Gianni Schicchi,' featuring Bari’s English libretto. In 2011, Bari was the librettist for WAM2, a co-production of the In Series and the Washington Ballet. She also wrote the script for the In Series’ 'Arlen Blues & Berlin Ballads,' which premiered earlier this year. Bari has reviewed theatre and film in the DC area for WAMU-FM’s Metro Connection.