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In the basement of a Tokyo office building, 85 year old sushi master Jiro Ono works tirelessly in his world renowned restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro. As his son Yoshikazu faces the pressures of stepping into his father's shoes and taking over the legendary restaurant, Jiro relentlessly pursues his lifelong quest to create the perfect piece of sushi. Written by
Jiro is not an easy celebration of sushi - it is certainly not simply stunning shots of food on plates - it is rather a more difficult and even challenging film about the complex nature of obsession, perfection, and the discipline and almost OCD behavior that it takes to become the world's best.
Jiro is acknowledged as the world's best - his restaurant in a pass in an underground station in Tokyo sits 9 people at a time, has to be booked at least a month in advance, and costs the best part of a week's wages. Yet no-one would hesitate - this is, as Michelin recognizes, worth a trip to Japan just to go and eat there.
The film succeeds as it is itself a near perfect reflection of the same ethos - it becomes apparent very quickly that this is not sentimental romantic filming - it chooses to avoid rich color, and in the editing and, in particular, the composition of the shots is singularly well-thought through. Many shots are based on the golden mean, and placed exactly two-thirds to the right of frame - and there is throughout a sense of real thought and balance. The Peter Greenaway-like score add to the general sense of rhythm and balance here.
The documentary itself is particular and peculiar - it is not in itself a documentary that embellishes - it focuses on Jiro, his sons, their suppliers, the apprentices, the produce, and the product - but we always feel that there are more stories untold than told here - Jiro is not, in the main, likable - but he is totally and utterly committed and passionate to the point of coldness about his process - in a way that few are anymore - and in this sense the film is also more an elegy than a eulogy - Jiro's work ethic is gone forever even now - who wants to work 16 hours a day for 75 years anymore?
We are watching the recording of extinction, and it is still beautiful. So we end up with a stark yet beautiful film that both records the passing of greatness and questions it. It is certainly one of the best documentaries of 2012.
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