Sunday, April 08, 2012

Review: Jiro Dreams of Sushi

This is a story of craftsmanship. Effort. Dedication. Persistence. Of Perfection sought.

The title of this movie sounds almost lighthearted, but the substance is deep, profound, in some ways enlightening, but one also feels the weight and the obligation of tradition, family, and duty.

Jiro's story could be read as a tragedy. The details of Jiro's early life are not clear, except for the fact that Jiro was thrust out on his own by the time he was 9 years old, left with no home to return to after his father's business failed. Perhaps this early life was the burned ships that made retreat, indeed, made failure, not an option.

Jiro's work routine is just that - repetition of the same actions again and again, making slight improvements all the time. This repetition, this dedication, discipline, are what have pulled Jiro up, away from his beginnings to the top of his craft, even though he will never say he has reached the top.

His two sons have followed him into the business. The eldest at Jiro's business, the younger at his own. Through the course of the film one sees what was given up by the sons, other ambitions, to pursue the family craft. To pursue and follow the reputation and perhaps the obligation, of Jiro.

Jiro's work and routine is relentless. The repetition and adjustment never stops, yet Jiro describes the act of making sushi as making him feel exuberant. He appears lost in it, absorbed. Dreams of it. One sees the sacrifice necessary for such dedication. Jiro himself recognizes it. There is no discussion of whether the sacrifice and effort is worth it, just that it is what must be done in order to strive to continuously improve.

This viewer is not sure such sacrifice is worth the heights of a craft. However, this viewer has not experienced those heights, the greatest recognition that can be bestowed upon one in the pursuit of a skill. But, Jiro appears to seek only improvement, to only do better. The recognition seems not to be the goal or even a motivation.

Sushi is the form that Jiro's dedication, effort, repetition and persistence has taken. This movie is hardly about fish, shrimp and rice. This movie is about walking a path, about work, about an approach to life, and its consequences.