David Gelb's gorgeous and deeply moving doc takes a contemporary approach to dissecting a culinary titan who is anything but modern. Jiro Ono, the pushing-90 chef whose Michelin-starred Tokyo restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro, is considered the best place for sushi on the planet, has reached the pinnacle of his craft by embracing the mode of shokunin, the Japanese honorific describing one who relentlessly pursues perfection in a single field. "Once you decide your occupation, you must immerse yourself in your work," says Jiro, who takes his own advice as life-consuming gospel.
His two sons, Yoshikazu and Takashi, both world-class sushi makers, have tremendous love for their father but cannot help but feel tethered by his blinding celebrity. While Takashi, the younger son, split off to open his own place, Japanese mores dictate that Yoshikazu must remain by his father's side until his retirement or passing — and the sprightly octogenarian, who still lords over his line every day like a demanding papa owl, is nowhere near either resting place.
Leaning on sleek time-lapse footage and elegant close-ups to compound the intricacies of Jiro's every measured motion, Gelb shoots with so much respect and artistic clarity that Jiro's incredible standards of self-discipline are not noted so much as gilded. "Ultimately, simplicity leads to purity," the chef says of his job, a deceptively straight-ahead view from someone who not only loves, but lives, his work.