Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)
Audio Commentary-Director David Gelb and Editor Brandon Driscoll-Luttringer
|Year Of Production||2011|
|RSDL / Flipper||Dual Layered||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||4||Directed By||David Gelb|
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 (320Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.85:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
Is there a more intimidating and challenging dining experience than eating at the three Michelin star restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo? Certainly the Fat Duck in the UK, under the spell of Heston Blumenthal and his molecular gastronomy may serve up snail ice cream, and Rene Redzipi at Noma in Copenhagen might plate up the odd live ant. However all those pale into normalcy alongside the Jiro experience where the 85 year-old sushi master stands stern faced opposite you preparing individual sushi servings and watches inscrutably as you taste his dishes. This is serious eating.
When one of Japan's leading food writers expresses his own nervousness when he eats at Sukiyabashi Jiro how intimidating it must be the average punter. My suspicion is, however, that apart from well-heeled foodies no-one steps into Jiro's restaurant by mistake. For starters there are only 10 seats and the wait list is extensive.
Secondly, this is a sushi restaurant. Early in the film a potential customer asks a series of questions about the restaurant. In the director’s commentary, director David Gelb insists that the customer was not a plant. It was fortuitous that he came in at the right time. The key questions - waiting time for bookings: about a month, food served: sushi and only sushi, approximate cost: around US$350 (at time of filming). As the food writer points out Jiro insists that you eat his sushi as soon as it is served, to be at the perfect temperature, which can mean that a dinner can be over in 15 minutes perhaps making it the most expensive restaurant on the planet.
The wonder of the film is not that the restaurant serves exceptional sushi. It is that Jiro is a man of some 85 years who has been making sushi for 75 of those years. He was kicked out of home at nine years old and forced to make his own way from that very early age. The effect on the man is clear. He has developed a single-mindedness which is both admirable and a little scary.
Jiro is a hard task master particularly on his two sons. Under Japanese tradition the eldest son Yoshikazu will inherit the restaurant. Not only does that make him seem like Prince Charles waiting for the Queen to step down but it also created a big problem for younger son Takashi who has been forced to open his own restaurant charging cheaper prices in order to continue his work.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a fascinating documentary about peerless craftsmanship and uncompromising work ethic. Jiro explains early that he worked so hard and for such long hours that his children would often warn their mother about the strange man in the house when he was home from work.
In fact, although this is a film about Jiro the real protagonist is probably his eldest son. Since Jiro had a heart attack at the fish markets some years earlier his son attends to all the purchasing. It is another fascinating aspect of the documentary that we see the level of specialisation and perfectionism in the seafood suppliers. Jiro has built up a business association with some of them that has lasted for decades.
The sushi looks gorgeous and foodies will love this documentary but it is also about a path chosen, the path of relentless and unquenchable perfectionism which remains with him to this day. The film gives a little time to the ultimate catch 22, that the skill of sushi chefs like Jiro and the raising of the popularity of sushi have led to declining fish stocks, such that some of their preferred fish are no longer easily caught. Will there come a day when there are no good fish left to serve?
As good as the sushi looks, however, it is the men who slice and serve it who will remain longest in the memory: the skeletal, aged master and his balding sons, striving to meet their father's expectations. Recommended
Jiro dreams of Sushi is presented on DVD at a 1.85:1 aspect ratio which is consistent with its cinematic presentation. It is 16×9 enhanced.
In the commentary track which accompanies this DVD director David Gelb talks about the changing filming methods that were employed during production. Initially he started with a small unobtrusive camera so as not to interfere with the natural performances of the chefs. Once they were comfortable, however, he was able to move to the much larger RED camera. I was unable to distinguish between the different filming methods. The whole film looks excellent. It is crisp and clear throughout. The flesh tones are accurate and the level of detail is excellent. The colours are bright and vibrant.
There are subtitles in English and Spanish.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi contained a Japanese 5.1 Dolby digital soundtrack running at 448 Kb/s. There is also a Dolby Digital English 2.0 commentary track.
The sound is clear and there are no technical problems with the soundtrack.
For the most part the 5.1 surround sound is not really necessary. This is a film which largely consists of talking heads’ interviews and fly on the wall type scenes. The surround sound is not really put to much use but that is not a criticism of the film. Neither is the sub-woofer of any particular advantage.
The best that the expanded bit rate does is give a greater sense of depth to the film soundtrack. Director David Gelb has a long association with classical music. His father is a senior executive with the New York Metropolitan Opera and he is related to violinist Jascha Heifetz so it is therefore no surprise that classical music plays a large role in the soundtrack of the film. What is interesting is that the director has made such good use of minimalist composer Philip Glass whose works of precision and repetition symbolically represent the repetitive yet artistic making of sushi.
|Surround Channel Use|
The DVD case for the film does not mention any extras. It was therefore a pleasant surprise to find that there are a couple included.
The director and the editor for the film get together to discuss the production process. The film had an interesting production history. The director David Gelb started by planning to make a film about the best sushi restaurants in Japan. He enlisted the help of the top food critic who is featured extensively in the film. Once the critic took him to Jiro's restaurant, however, everything changed and he decided to make the film about Jiro himself. In the case of this documentary the role of the editor is vastly different from one on a heavily scripted and story boarded Hollywood film. In this interesting commentary track editor Brandon Driscoll-Luttinger frequently talks about the composition method involved in editing large amounts of material into a unifying story. The commentary track would make interesting listening for anyone interested in making documentary films.
Aside from all the comments and observations it is amazing to learn that this most prominent of restaurants is at the bottom of a subway station in Tokyo and not in some ritzy location.
For the foodies who want to drool on their television set, this is a series of photographs of the various sushi combinations seen in the film all photographed lovingly.
The trailer for the film.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 1 DVD and the Blu-ray of this film have two further extras - some Deleted Scenes and a series of shorts about the product suppliers. Although comments I have read suggest these are of no great moment they still make the Region 1 DVD a preferable option.
I'm not sure that I would actually want to eat at Jiro's restaurant. The expectation and the stern looks of the master would probably make the experience a little too intimidating. Nevertheless, this is a fascinating film about a man for whom hard work and dedication are just the first steps on a journey to perfectionism, a journey which is still ongoing.
The DVD looks and sounds excellent and the extras are well worth experiencing.
|DVD||Cambridge 650BD (All Regions), using HDMI output|
|Display||Sony VPL-VW80 Projector on 110" Screen. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.|
|Amplification||Pioneer SC-LX 81 7.1|
|Speakers||Aaron ATS-5 7.1|