On Sushi and Film

It seems like I haven't written about film or been to the movies in ages..maybe it is because I haven't! And I LOVE going to the movies! So, in the absence of Brent (I forgot to mention, Brent is in Ireland! For a month! Teaching on writing and visual art through the Penn State program "Representing the Irish Landscape: Literature and Visual Art"), I decided to test my (awful, awful) driving skills and head over to a little film theater in Reading, PA! And I made it there in one piece...(but I am obviously stalling on the return drive as I write! cough cough...eats sandwich to further prolong drive home! Ooo, capers! More stalling...so dislike driving)!

The film I saw was Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a documentary about an 85 year old (!!!) sushi master in Japan whose little restaurant nestled in an underground train station is applauded as one of the best in the world and whose work ethic, love, discipline and craft all make him applause worthy even without tasting his creations! The film itself wasn't any kind of supreme documentary filmmaking (so so many overly-emotional musical swells and the use of slow motion and sped up shots was overdone some too) but the characters in the film (Jiro, his sons and the many people working in the artful sushi business) were so intriguing, and the scenes of otherwordly Japan (octopus scaling/sucking a merchant's arm, the peaceful obelisks of a country cemetery), let a lot of the boilerplate artsy doc stuff disappear often enough to make for a good film going experience. Like most Japanese subjects on film, there is an undercurrent of melancholic disapproval (guilt? honor? shame?) that cuts into all memories or stories: someone or something is never quite good enough and they must thoughtfully work to improve for the betterment of themselves in the name of their culture. The weird thing about this film was that this theme was played out on a personal level between Jiro and his family, both past and present, but by the filmmakers as well inserting mild anecdotes by Jiro that hinted at larger problems of a cultural legacy-- the state of overfishing, the problems with the globalization of sushi, a skepticism of big business-- a sentence here or an image there suggesting the weight of the world and a need to try better.  Overall a nicely made film, especially for a debut feature! I'm sure, as Jiro insists, painstakingly working at your craft is the only way to live a meaningful life... And maybe that is something filmmakers everywhere are striving for, even if it means destroying the tiny theaters like the one I saw this film in....have you all heard about this?

So film is literally going to be a thing of the past as major distributors phase out film projection for digital projection, forcing a lot of little moviehouses to close. Which is completely lame. And even spurred a sort-of-local indie theater of mine to send out a (very nice, eloquent) e-mail urging people to go to the movies in order to approach backers to raise the quarter of a million dollars(!!!) it is going to take to remain digitally relevant. But, a weird twist in this current tale is that a few major major Hollywood directors have begun to take their craft to another Jiro-like level shooting at frame rates that aren't supported by even most digital projections! It is kind of crazy! I am all for technological advancement and craft but how fast (frame rate pun intended) things move now is a little disturbing in terms of history and preservation...are tiny theaters obsolete? Are films only available on film relics, like the sagging giant tuna population mourned by Jiro? I know I am one for nostalgia but I don't think it is that in this case...I think it is a respect for a community, and future communities, to try and find ways to make all of these ways of artistic expression/life possible, or at least a way of respecting them for future generations (remember how we realized only recently that all of our film was disintegrating and we should maybe do something about it?)...either way, we should all go to the movies more to sustain this art and the arthouses that we have grown to love & respect...and, in the same vein, we should all eat sushi responsibly (<---that link has an Eco-sushi app!!!) to sustain the oceans that we too should love & respect!



Donna K. is a recent transplant to the Midwest where she can be found exploring culture at large through film programming, writing and her general interest in the world- both on and offline.