Jiro Dreams of Sushi

Bottom Line: Just a title like Jiro Dreams of Sushi can save you over an hour and twenty minutes.

Directed by: David Gelb
Featuring: Jiro Ono, Yoshikazu Ono

“The old pond” by Matsuo Bashō:
furuike ya
kawazu tobikomu
mizu no oto

Sushi is a delicacy. Raw fish and soy sauce is a combination some find appeasing, whereas others may find it disgusting. Personally, I enjoy sushi, but after two or three rolls, the taste has begun to sicken the tongue. Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a documentary that, ironically, plays out very similarly. Fundamentally, it’s about nothing but sushi, yet it’s cherished by critics and audiences alike, as if it’s a wonder to behold. Perhaps die-hard sushi aficionados could excavate something unique from it. Otherwise, it’s just as stultifying as a behind-the-scenes tour of the Cooking Channel.

Slap that smile off like a fish!  You’re wasting my time.

Jiro Ono is an 85-year-old Japanese native. For as long as he can remember, he has indulged in preparing sushi at his restaurant, the acclaimed Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo. Apart from this, the only two occurrences within the past forty years were a heart attack and taking cigarettes out of his mouth permanently. That’s it. Just sushi, sushi, and more sushi, at a restaurant that does nothing but serve sushi. Let’s admit, he’s an honorable and dedicated fellow, dedicating his life to guess-what. But unless you wholeheartedly agree with Jiro, his fanatical outlook is far more disturbing than convincing. Jiro treats sushi not as a food but as a religion, in which octopus is a sacrament and fish cadaver is a prophet. He worships it with the most pretentious vocabulary; essentially, he’s a Jehovah’s Witness for sushi, trying to advertise in a door-to-door manner, but usually turning off his targets instead.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi is watchable. That’s a sparse compliment. Most of this is due to the occasional bright spot. The cinematography is minimalist, captured by its own director. Light, bright, a few fades. The music, a compilation mostly of Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and what have you. And yes, I do enjoy pieces such as the prelude to Bach’s “Cello Suite No. 1”. Even better in a bright, shiny, metallic room. But once I see a shrimp oozing like a breaking pimple, it becomes the backdrop for a rather unpleasant infomercial. Watashi wa “disappointed” desu.

C MINUS

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16 thoughts on “Jiro Dreams of Sushi

  1. I was 50/50 on the movie but I’d like to offer up some constructive criticism on your writing/review style if I may?

    Your writing style is difficult to read with a natural flow. Reading through that review (and the others I’ve read thus far) felt unnatural due to sentence length and grammar. Some sentences are too short, many run-on, and some aren’t complete at all. Further, entirely too many commas are used.

    As for the review itself, you criticized sushi and Jiro himself but aside from the cinematography you spoke little about the documentary. This is understandable considering it’s a documentary about those two things, but there’s so much more you could have highlighted about why you found this movie so bad. I’m sure you’ve got more to say that would help aid someone who hasn’t seen this film, especially considering you’re going up against nearly 100% good reviews for this film.

    I’ve seen the film so I’ve already got an opinion on it, I just wanted to see if anyone shared my feelings. But had I not seen the film your review and the style it was written in would’ve made me think you didn’t know what you were talking about.

    Sorry if this came off mean but I hope it helps to make you into a better film-critic. We could use some differing opinions out there and I’d like to see them taken seriously.

    Best of luck out there.

    • Sorry you feel this way about my reviews. I’ve spent hours in each one and part of that is to make sure that, contrary to what you seem to say, I DO know what I’m talking about.

      This is a documentary. I’m not reviewing the person, if that’s what I’m hearing. I’m reviewing my interest in him, as pitched by the documentary. How that isn’t accurate, I’m not sure I understand. Documentaries are much different than any other kind of film, so I’m not exactly supposed to say Jiro was a good actor in this one, am I.

      As for sushi, I don’t think I would ever criticize it. I love sushi. What’s there to criticize?

      As for my grammar and sentence lengths, it’s funny that you say its unnatural. I actually try to keep it as natural as possible. Furthermore, varying sentence lengths is actually a way of keeping the reader interested.

      And yes thank you for “Best of luck out there.” I have eight awards for this blog, and I’ve felt achievement with it every day of the last two and a half years. Best of luck in the minority, though I’ll say I respect your approach at constructive criticism.

    • Since I know who you are and you know that I know who you are, it doesn’t really matter whether I address you by your name or typical WordPress screen name. It’s just all too obvious that you aren’t Jiro Ono. You’re trying to troll your half-baked attempts at humor on my blog, but since I marked you as spam, you needed to worm your way around it.

      Although I did dislike the movie (thank you for, at the bare minimum, picking up on that before making such a rash comment; regarding a technicality in the comment, I never once said anything about the quality of the sushi itself, simply because I have not had the chance to try it), I didn’t completely tune it out. Jiro Ono is the kind of guy I’d want to meet up with. You’re the kind of guy whose IP address I’d want to blacklist.

    • We do agree on one point, Nostra. In your review (in which you grade the film a much higher nine out of ten), you write:

      “It’s amazing to know that Jiri Ono has been in the business for 75 years as he started working at an early age. He’s still striving for perfection and doesn’t think he has achieved it yet.”

      It IS amazing, but I could take it as a bare “did you know” factoid straight off the Internet. What is done to Jiro here would be like walking into the Playboy mansion and asking Hugh Hefner to tell about how he got so successful. It’s honorable (maybe a bit less with Mr. Hefner) and certainly extraordinary, but it’s pretty bare, story-wise.

      • I don’t agree with that statement. Using that logic you could say that Rosebud in Citizen Kane is about a sleigh, no need to watch the movie. The fact that this documentary paints an interesting portrait of this man and his life’s work makes it worth watching. It would also mean that any other documentary which is about one person wouldn’t be that interesting because those are all facts you could read about.

  2. “Jiro treats sushi not as a food but as a religion, in which octopus is a sacrament and fish cadaver is a prophet.”

    I love this line. Did you make that up? Hilarious. I get what this film is trying to be then and I think I would totally side with you on this one. I mean I like crème brûlée, but I don’t need to see a documentary about someone who treats it like a religion.

    I love the fact that you aren’t afraid to give a completely honest opinion. I haven’t this this, mind you, but I just couldn’t understand why a documentary about a sushi chef was getting universal acclaim. 70 reviews on RT and all but one is positive. I might really love this film too, but I think am more inclined to side with you on this one.

  3. I think you are the first bad review for this doc that I have read, but you expressed my concern with it. Do I really care about the subject matter, and will the doc make me care?

    I missed this when it played in Miami, but my overall first take on the doc was that it seems like a lot of effort for raw fish.

    Great points on the review.

    • “my overall first take on the doc was that it seems like a lot of effort for raw fish.”

      I must’ve skipped over this when I first read your comment. Spot-on! I absolutely respect that Jiro has devoted his life to sushi, but if he was going to advertise that at all, he should’ve made an international TV commercial. All of this is basically character development. I shudder to think of how long the story would take to unfold if this was a narrative film, not a documentary.

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