Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Movie recommendation:
Jiro Dreams of Sushi

David Gelb’s Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011) is a beautiful film about work and life and happiness. For Jiro Ono, an eighty-five-year-old sushi master, they are one: his work is his life and his greatest happiness. “I feel ecstatic all day,” he says to the camera. “I love making sushi.” Sukiyabashi Jiro, Ono’s ten-seat sushi bar, is the most modest of settings for the pursuit of ecstasy: it sits in a Tokyo subway station. It is nonetheless a Michelin three-star restaurant. Here, and in a son’s two-star restaurant, and in a fish market, we see Jiro and company patiently seeking perfection.

I’m no foodie, and this film, as I suspected, is no foodie affair. There are gorgeous close-ups of sushi, certainly, but the emphasis is on dedicated practice: the same tools, the same motions, put to use again and again with new supplies of the same materials (fish and rice). Ono is seeking “the top,” but as he explains, “no one knows where the top is.” So keep going. Is the fish a little tough? Marinate it longer. If you think rice is a simple matter — well, it isn’t, at least not for Ono and his rice merchant. The willingness to look more and more deeply so as to discover ways to improve or reinvent one’s work offers a model for every form of endeavor. I’d love to show this film to a class of writing students.

You can learn more about Jiro Dreams of Sushi at the film’s website (the source of the photograph above). If you watch the trailer, bear in mind that the film is far less busy and far more thoughtful.

comments: 2

Andy said...

I saw this movie on a whim a few weeks ago and love it for all the reasons you cite. That someone can derive such contentment from one pursuit, that seems to occupy all his waking hours, is hard for a multi-tasking, have-it-all American to grasp. And I love that his suppliers place a priority on making sure that their highest quality products go to the craftsmen they deem worthy of it.

Oddly enough, the captcha to post this (oennomi iharagen) sounds vaguely Japanese.

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for your comment, Andy. Oennomi iharagen makes me feel a little better about having put CAPTCHAS back on comments.