A dream, indeed. Sure to delight foodies and cinephiles alike, David Gelb's meditative and illuminating documentary profiles Jiro Ono, the 85-year-old proprietor of the beloved Tokyo sushi restaurant Sukiyabashi Jiro. Celebrity gourmand Anthony Bourdain has sung the chef's praises, the Japanese government has recognized him as a national treasure, and his low-key establishment has garnered the highest rating from the notoriously stingy Michelin guide. The eats are certainly the film's star attraction: There are tons of gleaming close-ups of the fish Jiro prepares, and one piece looks so translucently scrumptious, you'd swear you can see its molecules moving. It's almost enough to just sit, stare and salivate.
Gelb has more up his sleeve, though. Everything about the movie seems touched by Jiro's finely honed methods of simplicity and minimalism: the fleetly focused 81-minute running time; the choice musical cuts from composers like Philip Glass and Max Richter; and the evocatively broad brushstroke characterizations of Jiro's subordinates, most notably his eldest child and coworker, Yoshikazu. The very real tensions between father and son are subtly yet perceptively hinted at: Whereas Jiro appears to have a born desire to make sushi, Yoshikazu seems to have acquired his talent by force. (When he mentions his childhood desire to be a pilot, you sense a glimmer of regret behind his casual demeanor.) Both men's genius is undeniable, but there's a lingering sense—a pleasingly provocative aftertaste, you might say—of discord amid the gustatory harmony.