JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI - Now On DemandJuly 24, 2012


Magnolia Pictures

On Demand Weekly provides new movie reviews of hot movies on demand from the POV of watching from the comfort of your home. Today’s review: JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI (Magnolia).


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By Bill Nordham


In Japan when you’re really, really good at something, you can earn the title of Living National Treasure. It’s a high honor that comes with a $25,000 annuity for the rest of your life. Jiro Ono, the 85-year old proprietor of the 10-seat, 3 Michelin-starred Sukiyabashi Jiro, is well aware that those checks will not come forever.

JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI documents the twilight years of one of the world’s greatest disciples to the art of sushi as he faces the mortal questions that await each one of us: Will my children be ok after I’m gone? Have I done enough to prepare them for life without my help? If I’m still working when I could be a great-great grandfather and supervising my oldest son past his 50th birthday (after he was the one who prepared the meals that earned my Michelin stars), is it safe to hand over the reins? Is it enough? Of course, Jiro knows his legacy is safe and that his sons are long past ready to maintain his uncompromising standards and tireless work ethic. But, on the other hand, one more day couldn’t hurt.



Chef Ono involuntarily left home at the impossibly young age of 9 and spent the next 76 years gently teasing heaven from a sliver of fish and some vinegared rice. While the rainbow colors and playful textures of Spider and Dragon rolls excite the masses in US sushi restaurants, Jiro continues to serve the simple nigiri and maki that often remain the last box left in your local supermarket. Clearly something more subtle is going on. 


When the camera follows Jiro to the tuna auction or the rice purveyor, it’s clear that he’s only satisfied with the best and that his choice suppliers are as discriminating as he is. From the accolades awarded to his minimalist presentations, the best clearly speaks for itself. Sure, you might wonder if hand toasting seaweed sheets over a charcoal fire makes a difference or whether it’s only showmanship to counterbalance the fact that his restaurant is located in a shopping mall basement. Viewers (but not diners) will have to trust Jiro on that one—and that sushi rice needs to be served at body temperature.

Director David Gelb and Editor Brandon Driszoll-Luttringer wisely keep the pacing lively and the experience accessible to an American audience most likely lacking in the knowledge that makes the $380-per-person experience at Sukiyabashi Jiro seem like a bargain to so many others. While the sushi novice will enjoy the artistically sped-up shots of the busy kitchen and a metered number of close up shots of piscine perfection, it’s more fun if you’re knowledgeable enough to feel part of the club when, for example, Jiro asks his assistant if the wasabi was just grated.

For the same reasons that someone likely would wonder what all the fuss is about at Sukiyabashi Jiro if their favorite sushi meal is “sushi deluxe,” JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI is a film best enjoyed by foodies who eat their nigiri by hand, fish-down in the shōyu.

If you’d like to try to catch the end of an era, call +81-3-3535-3600 and speak Japanese like a Tokyo native. Otherwise, the closest you’ll ever get is seeing this film.




Bill Nordham (The Cinema Dandy)
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