The Best Films of the Decade: #8. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)

| January 3, 2020
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The old decade is gone, and welcome 2020. And with it, here are my 10 favorite films of the last 10 years.

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I have said all along that my list of the best films of the decade was personal and probably nothing proves this quite like Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a documentary that had me thinking for days afterwards, not about sushi, but about the nature of obsession. It’s a subject that fascinates me. Why does someone do something obsessively? What is their mindset? What do they push away in order to have their obsession?

The Jiro of the title is Jiro Ono an 84 year-old Japanese artisan of all things sushi.  He has spent his life perfecting his craft beginning at the age of seven and by 1965 had opened his own restaurant Sukijabashi Jiro located in the basement of a Tokyo highrise just around the corner from a subway platform.  He is known as one of the best artisans of sushi in the world and in his 10-seat restaurant, where he charges $200 a plate, his establishment is so well-regarded that it has three stars from the Michelin guide.

Those are the establishing details.  What makes Jiro Dreams of Sushi so special is a quiet examination of the man himself.  Here is a man who creates culinary works of art, who operates his establishment with such mathematical precision that he seats his customers based on whether they are left-handed or right-handed.  Which calls into question the nature of his mind.  How does his mind work?  He seems so focused on the absolute perfection of his ingredients, his flavors and the geometrics of his restaurant that you begin to wonder what goes on in his mind away from his craft. 

The movie never leaves the space of his establishment but does his mind ever leave it as well?  Obviously, he goes home, but we’ve seen such a focused and obsessive mind at work that we wonder how he functions away from his beloved Sukijabashi Jiro.  Yes, he’s the most regarded sushi chef in the world, but does his obsession cage him I some way.  These are questions that I had walking away from this remarkable film.  What is your life really worth when you life is your work?

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
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