171 of 179 people found the following review helpful
This quiet, low-key documentary describes a most amazing man, Jiro. For more than half-a-hundred years, this octagenarian has devoted himself to one thing: perfecting the art of making sushi. His restaurant might not look like much. You pass through a subway turnstile on the way there, then find just ten seats in the cramped space inside. A lot of the time, staff outnumber customers. You need a reservation a month in advance and expect to pay US$375 minimum, but I assume it goes up from there. In return, you get a Michelin three-star experience - according to Michelin, the third star means it's worth visiting the country just to experience that one restaurant.
In some ways, Jiro-san seems a throwback. He expects a ten-year apprenticeship from his students (some of whom last only one day). His ethic resembles a samurai's, in its single-minded, lifelong devotion to perfecting his craft. When he passes the baton, it will be by primogeniture. The younger son will need to make his own way in the world. And, surprisingly, his perfectionism radiates outward through into his suppliers. His rice dealer sells him only the finest, a grade of rice that he won't even sell to others since they won't know how to prepare it correctly. His fish dealers, each masters in their own right, ask themselves whether their catch is worthy of him.
It's inspiring to see such mastery, but intimidating too. He admits, "I wasn't much of a father," since family came second to his craft. That degree of dedication seems beyond imagining, when I try to fit myself into it. (The 'now' generation won't have a clue.) Still, I value the knowledge that the world still rewards artisans at his level of mastery. Jiro is a treasure, and his heritage will enrich the world.
-- wiredweird, reviewing the release to theaters
47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on August 13, 2012
This movie is about sushi, but also really not at all about sushi. An 80-something master sushi maker is still at work, striving to make perfect sushi. The wonderful second story line here is: how can children live up to such great parents? How can we come into our own in the shadow of greatness? This theme is beautifully explored in this documentary. Jiro Dreams of Sushi is terrifically moving & inspiring, while also peppered with several really funny moments. The father and son are rich material for this story. Watching this is time well spent.
38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
What was attractive about "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" is that it already has this massively positive reputation. That's one of the more exciting aspects of being a critic; stepping outside of what you know, are familiar with, or expect to enjoy to find great films that weren't even on your radar. The title of the film is pretty straightforward about what to expect from the film. The documentary follows Jiro Ono, an 85-year-old sushi restaurant owner. Jiro's restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro, is extremely popular, has its fair share of accolades and is extremely well merited, and is known to be one of the best sushi restaurants in Tokyo; sometimes considered the best by a good portion of his customers. You're shown Jiro's undying devotion to his job as he works with his 50-year-old son Yoshikazu, who is expected to take over the restaurant once his father decides to retire.
Even after watching the film for its 82-minute duration, Jiro is still kind of a mystery. He is completely devoted to sushi as he's been working with it since he was nine-years-old and never once had the urge to change occupations. His eldest son is practically primed and ready to take over the business, but Jiro just enjoys working too much to actually stop working. Jiro's legacy and never ending goal to perfect his craft is making it nearly impossible for Yoshikazu to follow in his footsteps. Jiro also has a younger son named Takashi who owns his own restaurant that literally mirrors Jiro's restaurant and has a more relaxed feel.
There seems like there's so much more to tell surrounding Jiro's life as it only very briefly mentions his wife and other than not getting along with his parents, being kicked out of the house at the age of nine, and giving up smoking, we don't get to hear much else about Jiro's past. Did he just perfect his craft all those years before meeting his wife? Jiro's devotion is extraordinary and you'll want to soak up as much information as you can about him and his restaurant.
The film highlights a routine day for Jiro and his constant work cycle. You see how sushi is prepared and the delicate process of how it gets from the market to the customer's plate. You also take several trips to the fish market as Jiro has built a working relationship with masters who specialize in one or two types of fish only (one vendor for tuna, another for shrimp, etc). What makes the entire process so extraordinary is the way it's filmed. The camera work always makes it seem like the sushi is being placed right in front of you. If you admire any type of art, whether it's drawing, painting, sculpting, or whatever, you'll find something special in "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" because sushi is very much an art form.
The relatively short length of the film works for it extremely well as it leaves you wanting more without feeling like you've been sitting around watching a movie for hours on end. "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" has a tendency to create these montages of Jiro and his team working and preparing sushi to the tune of classical music. The use of that music is given even more depth when a food writer compares Jiro's sushi serving methods to a concerto. The entire film just has this incredible flow to it that makes it easy to watch.
Speaking as someone who works with seafood on a daily basis, "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" adds a completely different aspect to the seafood business. Wanting the absolute best for your customers is one thing, but going out of your way to propose ideas to prevent overfishing is both classy and easy to relate to. Seeing this world that you're probably unfamiliar with is enchanting in a way, but also extremely appetizing. If the wardrobe to Narnia led to a restaurant full of world-class sushi, "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" would be the exquisitely shot documentary that filmed your journey.
Special features include Commentary with Director David Gelb and Editor Brandon Driscoll-Luttringer, nearly 21 minutes of Deleted Scenes, a 19 minute Masters featurette that goes into a little more detail with several of the vendors at the fish market that Yoshikazu visits (tuna, shrimp, octopus/halibut, and rice), and a Sushi Gallery.
"Jiro Dreams of Sushi" is now available on 1-disc DVD and Blu-ray from Magnolia Pictures. The Blu-ray specs include Japanese 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English, English SDH, and Spanish Subtitles, and a 1080P High Definition 16x9 (1.78:1) presentation.
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 2012
I am an artist and a business owner. My business is my art, and my art is my business. I'm in a very different line of work than Jiro, yet I was inspired so much by this movie to stay true to the artistic integrity of my work, despite the many other pressures of being in business.
I feel there is too much attention and reverence in America on business owners who have dumbed down their art for the sake of profit and "success." The current paradigm in the world of American business education is that one must either be working "in" the business, producing its products and services, or the one running the business, behind the scenes - with the latter the obvious choice for which is encouraged. Businesses like MacDonald's these days are hailed as the epitome of success.
This documentary was inspiring because it brought to light a very different paradigm. It brought to light the paradigm of the artist/business owner who puts his craft first, while also maintaining a successful business. It was nice to hear how a man like this thinks & operates. It was nice to see him in front of his customers doing what he loves, as well as behind-the-scenes, teaching his apprentices how to make the best sushi in the world.
Aside from the content, the quality of the cinematography and overall production helped make this one of the most engaging and visually stunning films I've seen in a long time (or ever). The visual poetry and music matched the level of artistic integrity that Jiro places on his work - helping to capture the energy and excitement that Jiro has for his craft, and helping to transmit that to the viewer.
In short - it was one of the best documentaries I've ever seen - both for the content and presentation.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on June 21, 2012
A lingering, sentimental look at the mentality and habits of Jiro Ono, legendary sushi chef and Japanese national treasure. The long, personal chats with Jiro and sons, plus an exhaustive investigation into every aspect of his business, are balanced by an overly generous dose of shallow focal-range, slow-motion food porn. Like many stereotypical wise men of his age and nationality, the old master also has plenty of sharp, stirring wisdom to impart. Though he doesn't come right out and say it, it's easy to see the parallels he hopes you'll draw between his dedication to the kitchen and the nuances of a rewarding life, and my breath caught in my throat on more than one occasion. A great vehicle for deep immersion into a very traditional Japanese culture, this is far deeper and more rewarding than it initially lets on.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 24, 2012
Having seen this in a theater with the film's creator David Gelb, I was anxiously waiting for the chance to own this and watch it at home.
On its surface, it is a taunting collection of imagery for food lovers and the story of a sushi master. Once you start watching the film, you soon realize the true story lays in the relationship of this family of sushi masters. This is a great insight into Japanese culture, familial expectations, sibling rivalries and living in the shadow of a master.
The visuals are stunning as it was shot with the RED one camera. The footage is so clear you can see the thinly applied sauces spread out and absorb into the food.
The interviews and look into the private life of Jiro Ono is fascinating. There are not many people who have done the same job for 75 years and want to continue doing it. A look into the fish market of modern day compared to what Jiro Ono experienced as a young man is very interesting.
I've yet to watch it with Gelb's commentary track but he made some great points at the screening so I have high hopes for this feature.
Highly recommended for anyone who loves sushi, food, japanese culture, served with a side of sociology.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 21, 2012
I like sushi, or perhaps, what I've thought of as sushi. I've had some perfectly awful stuff---raw fish, and some better stuff, enough to have an idea of what to look for, but I can only wonder what one gets in the rarefied world of Jiro's. It helps to know something of sushi before you watch this, as the film spends no time on explaining what sushi is, or any real history of the cuisine. This film is about Jiro, Jiro's restaurant, his oldest son, who will take over the business (eventually, Jiro will die working if he has his way) and his younger son, who having nothing else to do in the family business, opened his own, a more affordable version of the same top flight sushi, but in a more relaxed setting---and designed for a right handed chef, but otherwise the mirror image of his father's place, designed from the other perspective.
And that's one of the great things about this film: You've seen the chefs from hell. The beastly ones who cuss and shout, demean people in public; treat their employees like slaves, and fawn for the camera. This is about as different from that as one could imagine. Eighty-something Jiro and his oldest son (fifty) go to visit his parent's ashes at a temple. Jiro remarks "I don't know why I come here, they didn't take care of me" and his son mock-shushes him "You've got to respect your elders!". And yet, after being sent of to school (at 7 or 9, Jiro seems to have forgotten) with his father's admonition "You have no home to return to", Jiro seems to have quite a nice relationship with both his sons, and his apprentices/employees.
Which is another nice thing about this film, nobody talks about how Jiro "changed the way the world eats" or says any of the preposterous things people say in front of cameras when talking about Alice Waters and the like. Sushi is presented as food, expertly prepared by a master, but still food, not a religious experience.
The "more relaxed setting" his younger son refers to is the trepidation many visitors have about sitting at the counter with Jiro standing over them. He does look a bit imperious, but more in the way of a man very concerned with how everything's going than whether or not you're worthy of dining there, as the film makes clear. Along the way you meet the fishmongers, each one an expert in his field; the rice merchant, and see what overfishing has done to seafood and sushi. The size of the fish forty years ago were immense compared to the fish today.
All in all, it is a very decent portayal of an obsessive sushi master who nevertheless comes across as a fairly decent guy, not like the usually freakish obsessive. And his older son seems well set to carry on the family name in Sushi.
There are a very few scenes of live fish (in the fish market, only) being cut into, that may cause unease in some viewers, but they are short and not the focus of the story, so once they pass, they are not repeated, and they are brief.
18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Located in a downtown Tokyo subway station, Sukiyabashi Jiro is an inconspicuous subterranean restaurant with just ten counter seats, yet it has the distinction of being the only sushi restaurant with a three-star Michelin rating. David Gelb's meticulously produced 2012 documentary tells the story of Jiro Ono, an octogenarian perfectionist whose constant striving for culinary transcendence has made him legendary among epicureans in the know. He loves his job, as he readily admits upfront, and while a model of stoic diligence and invariable routine, Ono does show his adoration in unexpected ways that manifest themselves through the unassuming pride he takes in his work. He even imagines new sushi creations in his sleep, thus the title. Such an unwavering quest does take its toll on his two sons who must find their way out of his shadow.
His younger son Takashi managed to escape the constant glare of his father by running his own premium sushi restaurant in the Roppongi Hills area of Tokyo, one that doesn't bother to compete with his father's. His older son Yoshikazu, however, bears the burden of the family legacy as the one to carry on his father's standards after he retires. Over fifty and still an apprentice, Yoshikazu patiently waits for his turn at running the flagship restaurant foregoing earlier dreams of becoming a race car driver. Since his father suffered a heart attack at seventy, he has taken over the critical task of getting the best fish possible at the world-renowned Tsukiji fish market. Gelb does a particularly nice job of showing the hurly-burly atmosphere of the pre-dawn tuna auctions and the lives of the men running the tiny stalls selling fresh seafood of all kinds. Perhaps by design, the film is comparatively more opaque in having us understand the genesis of the elder Ono's drive toward perfection.
While one contributing factor was the absence of Ono's father's absence, it is unclear who actually did influence him to become a sushi chef. There is also hardly a mention of the chef's wife, even though there is an extended passage of a reunion with his childhood pals who characterize him as something of a bully. Interviews with former co-workers shed some light onto the chef's stoicism. In fact, one of Japan's better known food critics admits to being intimidated by patronizing Ono's sushi bar due to the master's overwhelming artistry and attention to detail. Toward that end, I would have liked to have seen more scenes focused on the actual preparation of the sushi rather than simply admiring them on the counter once they are finished. Still, this is a unique look into a man who has not gone gentle into the good night in his quest for the perfect piece of sushi.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Jiro Ono is 85 years old. He owns a small sushi restaurant in downtown Tokyo. It's located in the lower level of a sleek office building next to a subway station. The restaurant seats only 10 customers at a counter. There are no tables and no waiting area. Mr. Ono does not serve appetizers, deserts or liquor. His customers are expected to be on time, not early and certainly not late. They are warmly greeted and seated at the counter. Typically each receives 20 pieces of sushi, each different, one piece at a time. A customer does not say what he'd like. Mr. Ono will decide. Mr. Ono is the subject of the documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
Mr. Ono watches his customers. Are they left or right handed? That determines where at the counter they'll be seated. Male or female? Females receive slightly smaller pieces of sushi. Customers in a group should end their meal at the same time, and female mouths are usually a bit smaller. How does the customer react? Mr. Ono recently has had an apprentice massage octopus in a large tub of water for 45 minutes instead of 30. He thinks the longer massage might make the octopus just a bit more tender and flavorful. Conversation is not encouraged and loitering after the meal is unheard of. A meal will cost the equivalent of at least $300. There is a three-month wait for lunch or dinner reservations.
Jiro Ono is a sushi master. This gentle and obsessed man has made sushi for 70 years. He is widely considered to be the foremost maker of sushi in the world. He left home at a young age. He says he was a bully in school. He became an apprentice, spending years learning the basic skills of sushi. At 85, Jiro is intent on learning more and improving. A craftsman, he says, must be able to turn out his product over and over again with no lessening in quality. He must always seek improvement. He must never be satisfied.
Jiro Ono has lived this credo with single-minded concentration. Until he had a heart attack at 70 he would arrive at the Tsukiji Fish Market before dawn to select only the freshest and highest quality fish. Then it's to his restaurant to teach and supervise the apprentices, consider every aspect of the lunch and dinner to come that day, review the reservation list and consider where each customer will be placed. Expense is not a concern. Jiro Ono buys only the best rice suited for sushi which is precisely cooked by apprentices; only the best fish is used. Nori is carefully toasted over a small grill outside his restaurant by his son or a trusted apprentice. He and his son daily taste everything before the restaurant opens. Even the tiniest of imperfections are corrected. If a fish doesn't meet his standards, it is discarded. One apprentice made 200 sheets of tamago, the sweet egg omelet, before he at last received Jiro Ono's approval. The other 199? They were discarded. The apprentice wept when Mr. Ono approved the 200th.
And of Mr. Ono's family and his interests? He refers to his wife with affection but we never see her or hear from her. His two sons hold him in respect. The oldest, Yoshikazu, is 50. When Jiro dies or is incapacitated Yoshikazu will take his father's place. Mr. Ono sent his youngest son out to start his own sushi restaurant when Mr. Ono thought he was ready. He wouldn't allow his two sons to become competitors, especially when by tradition the oldest son will inherit the business. For Mr. Ono's interests beyond sushi, he seems not to have any. Sushi has been his life, to perfect the art and craft of a taking a few simple but perfect ingredients and making them into something complex and subtle. Is the man to be admired. Absolutely. Is the man odd? Absolutely.
David Gelb has made a documentary of this extraordinary person. It's a wonderful piece of filmmaking.
One thing for sure. Mr. Ono would never, never allow a piece of cream cheese or an avocado in his kitchen.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2014
Jiro Ono is a Shokunin.
Shokunin is often translated as "Artisan" or "Craftsman". Which while not incorrect, is certainly incomplete.
A shokunin may at first glance seem like a workaholic. And perhaps some workaholics are actually shokunin, but not being Japanese, do not have the privilege to be named as one. (Interestingly, the Japanese also have a term "Karoshi" which means "death from overwork".)
But a shokunin is more than just a workaholic. It is not simply work, it is art, it is a calling, it is the pursuit of perfection, it is the continuous journey to understanding, achievement, and fulfilment of the full potential and purpose of the work.
One Japanese suggested that the shokunin pursues his craft for the benefit of society. His view may be culturally biased. Another (non-Japanese) disagreed and suggested that the shokunin is centred on his achievement, his skills, his development, and his attainment of perfection. This is a rather idio-centric view and explanation of a shokunin's mindset.
My view is that a shokunin is not simply a workaholic. A workaholic (like an alcoholic or any other kind of addict) is either compensating for some defect or lack in his/her life, escaping from life, or both. A shokunin is attempting to achieve perfection. Not for others. Not for himself. But perfection is its own goal.
"Jiro Dreams of Sushi" is about one man's pursuit of perfection in sushi. It is both a very narrow focus, and an impossible subject for a movie, but succeeds anyway.