During this global pandemic, we should all remember the people who are hungry and struggling for food. But even for the lucky ones who don’t have to worry about their next meal, food can become a daily obsession, as well as the primary way to distinguish one day from another. Our programmers suggest these three movies to whet your appetite, and perhaps inspire the gourmand in you.
THIS WEEK’S PICKS
JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI
Director: David Gelb (US 2011) 81 min.
Jiro Ono, considered the world’s greatest sushi chef, is the proprietor of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant inauspiciously located in a Tokyo subway station. Despite its humble appearances, it is the first restaurant of its kind to be awarded a prestigious 3-star Michelin review, and sushi lovers from around the globe call months in advance and shell out top dollar for a coveted seat at Jiro’s sushi bar. This engaging documentary shows Jiro working sunrise past sunset, striving for perfection at age 85. At the heart of the story is Jiro’s relationship with eldest son Yoshikazu, the worthy heir to his legacy, who still struggles to please his father. Featuring some of the most impeccably presented sushi creations you’ve ever seen, this is a thoughtful and elegant meditation on work, family and the art of perfection, called by the San Francisco Chronicle “a delectable documentary.” In Japanese with English subtitles. (Richard Peterson)
HOW TO COOK YOUR LIFE
Director: Doris Dörrie (Germany 2007) 94 min.
In the search for enlightenment, one need look no further than the kitchen. Cooking, as practiced by Zen priest and chef Edward Espe Brown, is not just working with food but working on ourselves. Director Doris Dörrie spends time with Brown at a Buddhist retreat in Austria and at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in California, exploring our spiritual connection to food in ways that are both soothing and provocative. A tenzo, or chief cook, at Tassajara since the ‘60s and author of The Tassajara Bread Book, among others, Brown blends cooking class with Dharma teaching, imploring us to treat food “as if it was your eyesight”–a precious commodity. Offset by archival clips of his mentor, Zen priest Suzuki Roshi, Brown exhibits wisdom and passion, anger and frustration as he laments the means of modern food production and consumption, while encouraging us to salivate and meditate. In English and German with English subtitles. (Joanne Parsont)
Director: Juzo Itami. (Japan 1985) 114 min.
Affectionately referred to as a “ramen western,” it stars Tsutomu Yamazaki as a cowboy hat-adorned truck driver who pulls into town with his sidekick (Ken Watanabe) and comes to the aid of a lone woman (Nobuko Miyamoto) struggling with a little noodle restaurant. Her name is Tampopo (literally ‘Dandelion’), and her platonic friendship with the noble, Shane-like savior is alternated with humorous digressions, including the story of a gastronome gangster and moll who together explore the erotic nature of food. It’s sweet, sexy, surreal…and mouthwatering. In Japanese with English subtitles. (Richard Peterson)
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