Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Sushi sojourn

Film follows rise of coveted chef

Express Staff Writer

Jiro Ono and Yoshikazu Ono in JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

   Even people who do not cotton to sushi can’t help but appreciate the way an adroit chef dispatches seafood into edible art.
    So it goes, then, that a beautifully imaged film about one of the greatest sushi chefs in the world can be compelling even to those who don’t favor the fish dish.
    “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” is a sumptuous trip through the rise of Jiro Ono, 85, who owns a 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant inconspicuously located in a Tokyo subway station.
    The late Roger Ebert had this to say about the 2011 documentary by American director David Gelb:
    “While watching it, I found myself drawn into the mystery of this man. Are there any unrealized wishes in his life? Secret diversions? Regrets? If you find an occupation you love and spend your entire life working at it, is that enough?
    “Standing behind his counter, Jiro notices things. Some customers are left-handed, some right-handed. That helps determine where they are seated at his counter. As he serves a perfect piece of sushi, he observes it being eaten. He knows the history of that piece of seafood. He knows his staff has recently started massaging an octopus for 45 minutes and not half an hour, for example.
    “Does he search a customer’s eyes for a signal that this change has been an improvement? Half an hour of massage was good enough to win three Michelin stars.
    “You realize the tragedy of Jiro Ono’s life is that there are not, and will never be, four stars.”
    The Sun Valley Center for the Arts is presenting the film at the Magic Lantern Cinemas on Thursday, May 2, at 7 p.m. Following the 80-minute film, there will be a reception in the lobby for Jiro ticket holders with sushi provided by Sushi on Second and wine provided by The Center.
    Sushi is a Japanese food consisting of cooked rice and usually raw fish or other seafood. Presentations vary widely, but its contemporary version was created by Hanaya Yohei in the 1800s as a form of fast food, conveniently eaten with one’s hands.
    Gelb has said in interviews that his original intent was to make a broader-spectrum film on a lot of different chefs with different styles, but that when he got to Jiro’s restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro, he found the makings of a good feature film.
    Not only was Jiro a captivating study, but so was the story of his 50-year-old son, who works for him and as the elder of two brothers was obligated to succeed his father while the younger was free to open his own restaurant and captain his own future.
    “Here’s a story about a person living in his father’s shadow while his father is in a relentless pursuit of perfection,” Gelb said.
    Sushi lovers from around the globe make pilgrimages to the humble hot spot, calling months in advance and shelling out top dollar for a seat.
    Get a virtual experience for a fraction of the cost and nary a travel agent’s input by emailing, visiting or dropping by the Magic Lantern. Tickets are $10 for The Center members and $12 for the general public.

Get on a roll
Ticketholders to the film, Thursday, May 2, can enjoy complimentary sushi and wine after.


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