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Firstly: this documentary about a Tokyo sushi chef is beautifully shot! With great care, the beauty of food and kitchens is the aesthetic heart of “Jiro dreams of Sushi”. Scenes about the preparation of the rice-fish combo alternate with interviews of the key personnel: Jiro the 85 year old master of sushi, whose 12-seat restaurant is legendary, and who still has the ambition to think about nothing but how to improve the next day’s menu over today’s. His elder son, caught in a Prince-Charles-like cul-de-sac of life, doomed to be the eternal apprentice, as his father is still of good health and also the star and face of the establishment. The younger son, who broke out, we come to believe, and is quite relieved that he could open his own restaurant, even though he is losing out on the fame of the original place (and the possibility to set the starting price for a meal of upwards of 300 Euros).

It will not have been fun to grow up as the son of Jiro, he is driven by everything that has to do with his business, by atavistic values about how to treat family members, he has been shaped by a fate that set him alone on the street at the age of nine, struggling for survival, climbing up the social and economic ladder one step at a time. He is not a bad or bitter guy, he is quite pleasant in his demeanor, and talks warmly about the fact that he has to do what he has to do to maximize the perspectives of his children.

This makes for an interesting mix of a film: partly it looks like the (well-shot) official advertising clip for the restaurant, partly it appears to a Western audience as a heart-breaking look into the rifts of Asian cultures, balancing between tradition and modern times. It is also populated by odd characters on the supplier side: the fish dealer who says if he cannot buy the one best tuna he picked for the day, that day there just will not be tuna. The rice dealer who insists that the Hyatt Hotel will not be granted the honour of using his rice, as they just do not have anybody who would be able to cook it properly. And the octopus who enjoys a 45 minute massage before being cooked and eaten by Jiro-San’s patrons.

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